Jubilo Iwata- Sagan Tosu 3-3 WON
Urawa 2-0 WON
Angers 3-2 WON
Laval 2-1 WON
Niort 2-1 WON
Niort- GFCO 2-1 WON
Watford 3-3 LOST
Scunthorpe 2-1 WON
Bradford 2-2 WON
Northampton 1-0 WON
Those previews ran to approx 5,000 words and cost subscribers as little as 2.4 euros , clubgowi newsletter subscription details on this link.
Just very brief notes about two games, as I am not keen on the "break" just three games into the new season. We should be able to build up some momentum after this week.
Jubilo Iwata- Sagan Tosu
These two have pretty much carried on this season as they ended the last.
Sagan collected 29 points in the second half of 2012, a total only beaten by champions Sanfreece Hiroshima and are unbeaten this season, albeit with two draws. Goals have also been a feature for them, at both ends of the pitch and their last 20 J-League fixtures have produced 70 goals. Confirmed team news was hard to come by, but it looks like they will be without right winger Shohei Okada and young centre back Tatsuya Sakai.
Jubilo collected just 19 points from their last 17 starts in 2012 and are without a win this time round, going 1-3-8 over their last 12 starts, infact, they have not beaten a "non relegated team since last August, with their last two wins of the year coming against Vissel Kobe and Gamba Osaka. However, two league cup wins last week and seven goals hints at better things to come and the three goals that Ryohei Yamazaki scored might well serve as a wake up call to striker Ryoichi Maeda, who was away with the national team, he has scored just once in 13 starts. Three way competition for starting places up front now, Hidetaka Kanazono also scored twice in the cup and this can only be good for Iwata.
The three h2h meetings last year, all went "over" and averaged 4.33 goals and I expect this to follow suit, given Sagan's free and easy ways and likely greater offensive threat from the hosts. There is circa 3.40 for over 3.5 goals which also appeals, but lets keep things simple..... 1.5 units "over" 2.5 goals 1.93 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Albirex Niigata - Urawa Reds
I previewed Niigata's last league match a trip to Omiya Ardija .....
Albirex only survived by virtue of other teams failure to win on the last day of last season and have started with two defeats this time round, goals were a problem all year ( just 29 in 34 starts) and they look to have done little to address that situation. Today they will be without keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi ( 79 goals conceded in 73 starts) and will go with Takaya Kurokawa (who concedes at the rate of 0.25 goals per game more), between the sticks. Right winger Seiya Fujita (24-1-0) is suspended, Albirex averaged 1.33 points when he played last season, 0.8 per game without him. Striker Tatsuya Tanaka signed from Urawa , left the pitch injured last week and looks set to miss this match. They lost a few absolutely key defensive players in the off season, Naoki Ishikawa to Sendai, Daisuke Suzuki to Kashiwa and Gotoku Sakai to Stuttgart, all of whom made circa 30 starts last year ,their backline and keeper Higashiguchi kept them in the top flight and things look a bit bleak a t present.
I am still not quite sure how they found an injury time equaliser for a 1-1 draw in that game, but goals are clearly going to continue to be a problem for them again this season. Defensively, they will still be without keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi ( see above) and given the players they let go in the off season, seem incapable of a clean sheet agaisnt anyone, let a team, with the offensive promise of Urawa.
Reds might have one eye on their Champions League match with Jeonbuk Motors in midweek, but are at virtually full strength, are coming off a full 14 day break and will be hungry to get going. They have a terrific record in this series and have not lost in Niigata for six meetings, or home or away in 14 starts. 1.5 units Urawa Reds -0.25 ball 2.11 asian line/ Ibramarket.
France: Ligue 2
Hosts have been very solid at home all season on their artificial pitch, where they are unbeaten (6-8-0), including a recent win over highflying Guingamp and draw with Monaco, too many draws all round for them of course, they have actually only lost the same number of games as Caen who are currently third, but 15 stalemates tell the story of too little ambition at times. If they had gambled and maybe won 7 and lost 8 of those, they would be putting pressure on the top three, instead of hovvering just three points above the drop zone. I think they have tried to open up a little and have scored five goals in their last four away games, but only collected a single point for their troubles and their only cleansheets in ten starts have come against two goal shy teams in Istres and Arles, although, to be fair, the latter have found a few goals since that game. I feel we will see the home side fully committed to maximum points tonight, with a tough trip to Dijon next, followed by a visit from Nantes, as it would be easy for them to drop points in both and get sucked into real danger.
Angers are in 5th, three points behind both Caen and Guingamp and with those two looking certain to pick up points this weekend, this is a match the visitors dare not lose and should look to win, we have discussed them several times over recent weeks, ahead of a trip to Le Mans I wrote ....
They immediately bounced back with a 1-0 defeat of Gazelec and that says a lot about them, they are tough and will fight, but are a little short on class and tend to come up short against the better teams in Ligue 2, actually, they are a bit of a "flat track bully" with 11 of their 13 wins coming against teams outside the top 9 . One of those was a 4-0 defeat of Le Mans in the reverse fixture, with Claudiu Keserü (24-14-2) scoring all four goals. Doubtless he will be up for this and that the hosts will have tried to come up with a gameplan to stop the prolific Romanian striker. The visitors remain without Gomez and Lemaire and also right sided midfielder Rayan Frikeche (19-3-0), but Zoro, Fall ( suspended last week) and Couturier are back in the squad and overall they look a little stronger and definitely fresher, since we last discussed them. New signing Ayari and Doré are competing for the starting role alongside Keserü, the Tunisian got the nod last week, but was replaced after an hour, with Doré assisting for the winner and competition between the two can only be good for Angers.
They won that 2-0 and then hosted Dijon when I spoke about the extra competion up front ..... Férébory Doré (see above) clearly made a strong case for getting that starting place nod, by scoring both goals, his first since last May and strikers are always worth keeping an eye on when they start scoring, especially when they are hungry to keep their job, but having said that Doré has never been prolific and is more of a provider. Midfielder Rayan Frikeche (19 appearances -3 goals -0 assists) and Diego Gomez (15-1-1) remain sidelined, the are a better team with both especially Gomez, but he has not played in 2013 and they have won their last two without his right sided colleague.
They drew that 3-3 and were unlucky IMO, falling behind against the run of play and actually trailing 3-1 late, but they showed terrific spirit to score two late goals and following up with a 2-2 draw in Monaco, where they led twice. Tonight, all the players discussed above, Kesuru ( 17 goals this season and five in his last five starts), Gomez, Ayari,Doré, Fall, Zoro and Couturier are all available and they now look a team with goals in them. Centre back Fabien Boyer (22-0-0) and holding player Vincent Manceau (23-1-1) miss out, which does leave them looking a little weaker defensively.Hosts remain without midfielder Yohan Hautcoeur (21-1-0) but have no other problems of note.
Angers have won on their last two visits, including on the artificial surface last season and I favour them to win a match, or at least not lose a game where I feel we will see goals. Getting the draw as a safeguard when Chateauroux play is always nice though and I will stick with the visitors and their ability to "beat up" on struggling teams. 1.5 units Angers level ball 2.14 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Châteauroux : Millieras, Milosavljevic - Nestor, Fournier, Neves, Afougou, Sambou, Sartre, Chamed, De Freitas, Orinel, Guerriero, Guidileye, Tainmont, Jeannot, Essombé.
Angers : Malicki, Letellier - Fall, Zoro, Hénin, Couturier, Diallo, Frikeche, Auriac, Ravet, El Jadeyaoui, Gomez, Diers, Keserü, Doré, Ayari.
Laval - Le Mans
Derby of the Pays de la Loire.
Regular readers know that I have been keen to oppose Le Mans, especially on the road this season, although the last time we looked at them was ahead of their 3-0 home defeat to Nimes two weeks ago .... Le Mans are without Chinese defensive midfielder Jiaqi Zhang (4-1-0 ..... lost one of four when he has played), left back Jason Buaillon (18-0-5) and left winger Olivier Thomert (12-0-1), We have spoken many times about how they had a squad prepared for third tier football and that a last minute reprieve from relegation, left them short of Ligue 2 quality. Lack of options in certain positions is all too apparent ,they look short on the left tonight and having named just four defenders, have added a third choice and inexperienced defender to midfield, where he might be asked to play out of position. All is not well at the club, salaries have been paid late again and they have only won five of their last 21 starts, those wins came against Laval, Gazelec, Chateauroux, Niort and Sedan, all are in the bottom eight and four were in the drop zone when they played Le Mans. They have beaten just one top 7 team all season, a shock 2-0 win at Caen, this is a match we have discussed often and one Le Mans should have lost by 3-4 goals !
Zhang and Buaillon remain out and are joined by striker Fousseyni Cissé (16-4-1) and keeper Jérémie Janot ( 25 starts... they have conceded six goals in the 3.5 games he has been sidelined. They are now in the drop zone, mood at the club is not good and they look a prime relegation candidate unless something changes and quickly.
As I have said before, I suspect I have seen the best of Laval this season and they look too strong to go down (famous last words) IMO. We were firmly on them to beat Sedan here last month in a similar type of game, they won that 3-0 and have played pretty well since, losing narrowly on the road to Caen and collecting points from each of their other fixtures, including a 2-1 win over promotion chasing Guingamp in their last home start. Those results have enabled them to ease one point clear of the drop zone, this and their next two starts are all "six pointers", but dispite being a derby fixture, this looks the easier of the points on offer. They have won the last four h2h matches here, one was in extra time, but there was a 4-1 win in pre season. 1.5 units Laval -0.5 ball 2.13 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Laval : Balijon, Hautbois - Belaud, Stosic, Perrot, Ma.Traoré, Falette, Talmont, Ewolo, Betsch, Hamdi, Ou.Traoré, Gonçalves, Do Marcolino, Gimbert, Viale.
Le Mans : Beunardeau, Makaridze - Baby, Cuffaut, Koné, Kassaï, Kanté, Thomas, Sido, Sanson, Omrani, Thomert, Zito, Belfort, Mendes, Sylla.
Niort- GFCO Ajaccio
Niort really have to win this, they are outside the relegation places only on goal difference and travel to play Monaco next week, infact their fixtures for the next month or so are incredibly tough and to give themseleves a fighting chance of survival, they need the three points this evening. Gazelec look doomed, bottom of the table, nine points from safety and with just one win and nine goals on the road all season. They always looked to be fighting a losing battle, with third tier (at best) facilities and a tiny budget and their only win in ten starts ( eight defeats) came against an Istres team who could not score in a brothel and were running on empty after a big cup game a few days earlier and even then, they conceded twice and Istres have only managed one single goal in ten outings since ! In March Niort have taken points from Dijon and Lens and lost 2-1 at Le Havre, where they were very close to claiming a share of the spoils, conceding late and being denied even later by a stunning save, which even then, also needed help from the woodwork.
Visitors will have to try and give themselves a chance and if they could win this, would "only" be six points adrift of Niort, so the hosts are going to get more space to exploit than usual. Gazelec have tightened up a little in recent starts, but might have to ditch the five man defence, at least at some stage tonight and this will get stretched.
Niort remain without Mustafa Durak (15-5-1)and Simon Hebras (21-1-3) , but they have not played in four months/ seven weeks respectively and can no longer be considered key injuries, no new problems for the visitors.
Hosts feel they are well prepared for this having focused solely on GFC for two weeks and confident, with goalkeeper Paul Delecroix describing much of their play against Dijon and Le Havre as "beautiful", he feels the team have upped their level of performance considerably and will soon start to get better results. Niort did the double over GFC in National last season and if both are not to return there, they need the points tonight. They led twice in the reverse fixture, with midfielder Johan Gastien scoring twice, Jimmy Roye scored in both meetings last year and with two goals in his last four starts, both will be further motivated this evening, if that were needed. 1.5 units Niort -0.5 ball 2.02 asian line/ Ibramarket.
On the basis of my "two struggling teams means goals adage" at this stage of the season, I am nowhere near strong enough to pass on this price either which is HUGE in my opinion and a full quarter ball bigger than I made it, so a double bet game for me. 1.5 units "over" 2.25 goals 2.21 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Niort : Delecroix, Roche - Lahaye, Konaté, Pallois, Bernard, Durand (cap.), Gastien, Houla, Roye, Diaw, Sané, Bong, Ricaud, Glombard, Lafourcade.
Ajaccio GFC : M'Bolhi, Maury - Poggi, Filippi, Rachidi, Romey, Y.Touré, Colinet, Seymard, Laïfa, Saadi, Verdier, Maïga, Dufau, Novillo, Colloredo.
Championship: Watford- Burnley
I expect to see a very motivated and relieved home side take to the field at Vicarage Road this afternoon, motivated because three points will take them back up into the automatic promotion spot, at least for 24 hours and relieved because consecutive defeats, in matches they should probably have taken four points from, hasn't come at a greater cost. Their nearest challengers Hull City, Crystal Palace and Leicester City all failed to take full advantage and the only team charging at present are email favourites Nottingham Forest, who have done us several big favours in recent weeks. Key striker Matej Vydra (33-20-8) has had a huge week, being voted npower Championship player of the season and scoring twice for the Czech Republic against Armenia and he will be keen to match himself against another second tier hotshot, in 23 goal Clarets striker, Charlie Austin.
Burnley are ten points off the playoff places now and are actually closer to the drop zone and they might well be just a little more focused on their two home games next week, having not won in front of their own supporters in five starts, all the talk this week at Turf Moor has been about that poor run at home and the match with Forest on Monday, clearly appears to be their biggest game of the holiday weekend. Goals have certainly dried up for them with just four in their last eight and it is easy to see why, 16 of Austin's goals came before the first week in November, the only other player to have had more than 19 attempts on target this season is Martin Paterson and he has not scored since that same first week in November. There is just not a lot of offensive threat from elsewhere and the attacking play is too one dimensional, with everything targeted towards the pair, especially Austin. They had a handful of players away on international duty in midweek and the mood among st these was hardly helped by universally poor results, best of which was a 0-0 draw for Fulham loanee Alexander Kacaniklic with Sweden.
Watford were starting to look a little weary and the 13 day break was perfect, especially for some of the large Italian contingent for whom the Championship schedule was taking a toll, Marco Cassetti spoke about this earlier in the week saying, "the international break has provided a welcome opportunity to regroup and prepare for the final eight games , it's perfect, good timing for recovery, energy, to prepare for the next match in the best way." Nyron Nosworthy returned from international duty with what looks a season ending injury, but he would probably not have started today in any case and the hosts have options, it is also possible that coach Gianfranco Zola might bring in someone today ( Thursday) as cover.They will have Almen Abdi (31-10-8) in midfield, he has nine goals or assists in his last 12 starts and his energy was missed at Barnsley, keeper Manuel Almunia might also return, after missing the last four starts ( no cleansheets) and if both started, it would be a huge boost. I strongly feel that the break has been of more use to Watford, they have good bouncebackability following defeats, despite that slip up at Barnsley and the mood in the home camp is far more upbeat. 1.5 units Watford -0.5 ball 2.03 asian line/ Ibramarket. Of course, many of us are on Watford at big prices 11.0-15.0 for promotion and if that is the case, you might want to skip this, or scale down your bet.
Watford have scored a high 34% of all their goals between the 60th-75th minute, they have conceded 54% if the final 30 minutes and with Burnley also shipping 50% of all their goals in the final third of games, we could see plenty of late action.
League 1 : Scunthorpe United- Leyton Orient
Orient continue in good form and are unbeaten in seven, but they have failed to impress me this season and I feel they have overachieved with a top ten placing ( currently 9th), they have taken points from a number of games where they have been comprehensively outplayed for long periods, like at Preston last week, where keeper Jamie Jones almost singlehandedly earned them a point and they have more than ridden their luck several times. Yes, I am a little bitter as they took four points from Brentford in games where they would have been fortunate to score nil and I accept that luck can only continue for so long and when they play at their very best, they are a match for anyone, but those periods are few and far between and my argument is that they have got far more from their "dips" than most teams would. They are "only" four points adrift of a playoff spot, but have played between 1-3 games more, than most of the teams they are hoping to pip for a post season spot. This means they will have to gamble for the win and diverge from their normal gameplan on the road, at least at some stage, usually they look to keep things very tight and hit teams on the break. They will be without central defender Scott Cuthbert (18-0-0) today, they have collected 0.41 points per game more when he starts, so that is a loss, especially after losing Ben Chorley in the January window. Baudry and Clarke are an ok central pairing, but there are few other options. This, for me, is also a team with a bit of a soft underbelly, they are fine when things are going their way, but they have collected a League 1 low three points from losing positions this season and only Aldershot Town in the whole of the Football League have managed fewer.
United were read the riot act by coach Brian Laws after their 3-2 home defeat to leaders Doncaster Rovers in a local derby last week, that was their fourth loss in a row and has seen them drop back into the bottom three and having played two games more than Oldham Athletic, the team immediately above them in the table. With a trip to highflying Bournemouth on Monday, this really is must win time if the Iron are going to survive. They do create chances, 443 attempts on goal is the highest of any team in the bottom half of the table, 40 more than Orient and circa 80 more than the other relegation candidates, but too many sloppy goals conceded has cost them dearly. Akpo Sodje, Mike Grella and Karl Hawley are all proven scorers at this level and above, they are capable of firing the goals to keep United up, or at least give them a fighting chance, if the backline can just tighten up a bit. Paul Reid (21-1-1) returned at centre half last week after missing a lot of recent games, h e should be much fitter after a free midweek and United have averaged 1.39 points when he starts, 0.62 when he doesn't, which is 35 points+ difference across the full season. Hosts have a very good record against Orient, losing just once in 12 h2h starts home and away, including a 3-1 win in London earlier in the season, when their opponent had just won eight in a row .Huge game for United and time for a win. 1.25 units Scunthorpe United level ball 1.96 asian line/ Ibramarket.
League 2 : Bradford City- Southend United
Regular readers know that I rate these two amongst the stronger League 2 teams, sometines the table does lie ! Both got majorly distracted by Cup runs and United have had a terrible time with injuries. The visitors expected automatic promotion this season and failure to claim that, cost Paul Sturrock his job recently, Phil Brown has come in this week , with the club looking to make one last attempt to get into the playoffs, With his new team, six points off the pace and just 7 matches remaining and City seven adrift, with eight to play , we can expect both to be going all out for the points this afternoon. A draw will have very little value, if one of thse could win both starts over the weekend, it would really set up a late playoff push.
United are still without left Chris Barker and midfielder Michael Timlin, but Gavin Tomlin (27-12-2), Barry Corr ( 10 goals all comps), Luke Prosser and Ryan Leonard are all pushing for recalls and that will give Brown increased and talented options. City have no new problems and we have two strong teams surely going all out for the points, Brown favours an offensive 4-3-3, or tended to at Hull City and Preston and United have gone with variations on that recently 4-5-1, which became 4-3-3, so fairly sure we will see that today. Goals for me . 1.5 units "over" 2.25 goals 1.95 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Southend have scored 44% of their goals in the 30 minutes after the break, City have both scored and conceded 31% in the final 15 minutes, so don't give up on the "over" too early !
League 2 : Northampton Town - Torquay United
These two both won for us last Saturday and those previews are reproduced at the foot of this email. Town edged home 1-0 with hugely promising Wigan Athletic loanee keeper Lee Nicholls keeping his 14th cleansheet of the campaign. The win came at a cost as key central defender Kelvin Langmead (39-7-2 ) picked up an injury, but boss Aidy Boothroyd has acted quickly and with the support of his board signed Nathan Cameron from Coventry City, a player the coach knows well from his time with the Sky Blues. Cameron is highly thought of by Boothroyd who gave the 21 yo his debut and he has since gone on to make 52 first team appearances, all at the higher level. He looks a good replacement, for what is a big loss. No other problems of note, Town can go second with the win and will be very motivated to claim the points with a trip to Cheltenham Town, who are behind them only on goal difference, on Monday.
United surged into an early 2-0 lead over York, but made things far more difficult for themselves than it needed to be, conceding a second half penalty and red card, which means that Tom Cruise (not him ! .....15-0-1... started last four matches/ 8 points) is suspended. Also , with 46 points they do have a degree of safety now and with perhaps one eye on the remaining three home games, one on Monday, where they can collect the 4-5 points needed to ensure survival. Further, they played a Devon St Luke's Challenge Cup semi-final (!) against Bideford on Tuesday and gave a run out to at least six players who will be in the squad for today, albeit most on the bench. Boss Alan Knill doesn't have a lot of options and has been desperately trying to sign a striker on loan this week. I feel Town will be more up for this today, with United looking to hold something back for Monday, they have won nine in a row at home and kept four consecutive cleansheets, they should be able to make it ten this afternoon. 1.25 units Northampton Town -0.5 ball 1.92 asian line/ Ibramarket.
Written March 22nd
League 2 : Northampton Town- Oxford United
This is considered a "derby" fixture, with increased interest this season as Town are still hopeful of an automatic promotion spot and United still seeking a playoff place. The visitors have upped their game since getting a few players back for injury in late November, which got them onto the fringe of the top 7, but just two wins in 8 at their Kassam Stadium home where the level of expectation is very high, have cost them and now six points off the pace and having played a game more than most and with just seven rounds left, they can only be looking for the win this afternoon. That is pretty much their style in any case being 8-2-9 on the road, no new injuries for them, but midfielders Lewis Montrose (20-1-2)and Peter Leven (20-4-4) and left back Tony Capaldi (28-0-2) remain out, that trio would all be considered starters, also missing is striker Justin Richards (17-1-0).
We spoke about Town ahead of their trip to Morecambe ..... Town are in very good shape, both team and results wise. After collecting 20 point from their opening 16 starts, they have 41 from their last 21 and arrive here on the back of a 2-0 defeat of Accrington Town, where theyrested 17 goal striker Adebayo Akinfenwa as a precaution, right sided midfielder Chris Hackett (32-6-12) came into the team and scored the opener on Saturday, after similarly being rested and boss Aidy Boothroyd is keen to keep everything fresh and players hungry. The Cobblers have assembled a decent squad, have one of the bigger playing budgets in League 2 and with no injury concerns of note, have a whole host of quality players like striker Jake Robinson and midfielder Luke Guttridge , looking to force their way back into the starting eleven. Town are pushing for a top 3 place and automatic promotion spot, they sit in 4th one point below Burton, but have three teams below them within two points and any failure to win now, is going to have consequences.
They drew that 1-1, so no damage done as we backed them off level ball, but despite only equalising late, they had chances to win, lots of them and incredibly hit the woodwork four times ! They have not played since, so are now sixth, but only four points off a top three spot with a game in hand and six points + clear of the team in eighth, it would be pointless to settle for a draw here. Both teams will surely look for maximum points and the opening goal should see this get stretched, I expect goals but prefer the odds on the home win. 1.5 units Northampton Town -0.25 ball 1.99 asian line/ Ibramarket.
League 2: Torquay United- York City
These two have been in freefall for months, in early November there was little sign of what was to come, United were in the playoff places and newly promoted City a promising 10th spot. The visitors are now in the drop zone having won just once since mid December, the Gulls have at least stalled if not entirely stopped the rot with a 2-1 defeat of Chesterfield in midweek, which came on the back of draws at Dagenham and Southend United, where they played well and perhaps deserved much more. Boss Alan Knill took charge of the team on an interim basis last month and had declared that confidence amongst his players was growing , before the upturn in fortune and now that they have that much needed win, they will be looking to build on it and pull away from the drop zone. Two of their next three starts are tough trips to Northampton ( 14 home wins) and leaders Gillingham, so they know that just two points ahead of York, they could soon replace them at the foot of the table, if they do not collect the win today. 1.25 units Torquay United -0.25 ball 2.02 asian line/Ibramarket.