Friday, March 09, 2012

IKER, IKER AN NAY ( I bet you five dollars he'll kill you dead) .....

I write much about how my daily notes are worth so much more than the "bottom line", long term, results will take care of themselves, it is the content that is important and I believe almost every daily email contains something of value, some snippet which might help you find a winner in the future.

A few people were surprised about how comprehensively Athletic Bilbao outplayed Manchester United last night, but that would hardly have surprised anyone who read my notes on a regular basis. I have talked about United's defensive problems all season and been "bigging up" Bilbao for almost six months. I have reproduced a couple of those posts below and highlighted some pertinent comments in red. At the time I started writing about them as a top 4 contender, they were languishing in 19th place and were without a league win. Today, everyone knows how good they are !

Ahead of last night's match I wrote in my morning notes .... At times this United side still look very vunerable at the back, they could/should have been a couple down at the break to Tottenham on Sunday and have already conceded three goals here at Old Trafford to Basle and two each to Ajax and Benfica, you all know how highly I rate Athletic and consider them better than that trio and definitely expect them to score this evening. Over 7,000 Bilbao supporters have travelled to Manchester for the game and the atmosphere will be electric, Amorebieta will be suspended, but no other problems for the visitors and I am very excited to see how they match up with United, this is a big opportunity for the hugely talented Iker Muniain and Athletic to introduce themselves on a big stage and I have to take them getting a full goal start and also take a little on the goals flowing, as they often do at both ends with these two. 1.25 units Athletic Bilbao +1 ball 2.14+ asian line and 0.75 unit "over" 3.5 goals 2.90 exchanges.... the 7.50 + for Bilbao to win is way too big too IMO.

Monday October 17th

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.

Thursday October 27th

Finally ! The late goals have started to come the correct way, which of course, is in our favour ! Levante and Liverpool both found winners inside the final five minutes and kept up our 100% record ( five from five) for the new week, actually the last 34 "official" football selections have produced 25 winners.

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.


In La Liga , I am going to stick with Athletic Bilbao who make the short trip along the coast to face Sporting Gijon, a venue where they have traditionally done well, being unbeaten on their last four visits. We have discussed them a lot recently and the last two of those previews were included in Thursday's email, which I have reproduced below. Not much point in going over old ground, they saw off Atletico with a very strong second half performance and a win today will keep them within touching distance of fourth place and that is essential, with two very tough matches up next against Barcelona and Sevilla. When everything clicks for this Bilbao side, I feel they are a match for anybody ( the top two aside) in La Liga and certainly should be looking for maximum points at venues like El Molinon. Hosts have found some recent form, but it has come against inferior teams to Athletic, they are a limited team and club, that have already lost three home starts and have done remarkably well to stay in the top flight for three season, especially given that they lost 23 matches in the first and won only nine in the second ! My only concern is the early kick off, especially given that Marcelo Bielsa's team played on Thursday, but I really like them as a team and him as a coach and feel that both will make us a lot of money this season and certainly do not want to dessert them now that they have hit form.

Good Luck.

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