Man City to Cap Title-Winning Season with Home Win over Brighton

Manchester City may have fallen short on the continent this season but Pep Guardiola’s side have been simply sublime en route to securing the Premier League title.

Winning 30 and drawing three of their first 35 matches Cityzens left the chasing pack for dust and fans expect the free-spending side to dominate English football for the foreseeable future.

City hammered West Ham 4-1 to bring April to a close and as well as putting the match beyond their opponents, Fernandinho’s goal on 64 minutes at the London Stadium was his employer’s 102nd of the season. To put that into context, 2016/17 champions Chelsea scored 85 goals with 2015/16 kings Leicester managing 68.

Pre-season favourites with bookmakers in the Premier League betting last year’s bronze medalists lived up to the hype and will be eager to shine in their final home match of the season to thank followers for their continued support.

Lowly Brighton provide the opposition on Wednesday May 9th as the pair meet in an 8.00pm kick-off. There’s little doubt among traders that Manchester City will sign-off with a big win and punters looking to support the champions must make do with bet365’s 1/8. Short, but that’s currently the market best.

That’ll push backers into the specials but there’s thankfully no lack of markets available to football lovers looking for a lively interest. With the stands packed and a party atmosphere in the air to close the show goals are expected from a side who scored 14 in six starts last month. That includes the four against West Ham and a stunning 5-0 win over Swansea at the Etihad Stadium; this match producing more than three goals is even money.

This will be the second fixture of the season involving Manchester City and Brighton with the reverse leg ending in a 2-0 away win at Falmer Stadium back in August. Tighter than many expected, it took until the 70th minute before the victors were able to break the deadlock with Sergio Aguero on target. Lewis Dunk turned the ball into his own net five minutes later for an unfortunate own-goal that put the game to bed.

Pep Guardiola 2
Source: BBC Sport via Twitter

Fancy more of the same? Man City to do the double over Brighton with another win to nil makes plenty of appeal at 4/7 or -1 goal on the handicap trades around the 2/5 mark which should make it popular in accumulators. 4/9 has no in the both teams to score market favourite but the head-to-head stats tell us it may be worth chancing the bigger price.

Three of the last four meetings of these rivals has seen both find the net at least once, including a 2-1 City win when last facing off in Manchester. Both to score is 13/8. Chris Hughton’s side will finish outside of the prizes following last season’s promotion from the Championship but they have already notched goals against the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham this year.

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Roby staying on at St Helens for 16th season

England hooker James Roby will continue his St Helens career into a 16th season, after the Betfred Super League leaders revealed they had taken up an option on his contract for 2019.

The 32-year-old has won every domestic title whilst with his home-town club.

Roby made his debut as an 18-year-old in 2004, and recently reached 400 appearances for the club.

Roby, who was awarded the award for Steve Prescott Man of Steel in 2007, was appointed as St Helens captain at the start of the 2017 campaign, and has helped them on their way to the top of the table at the halfway mark for the season.

“I’m really happy to stay at my home-town club,” Roby said. “Although there is a long way to go this season, everything is going well and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and next.

“I’m proud to have played at the Saints my whole career and I’m really looking forward to the future.”

Mourinho given Lukaku boost; Talks Fellaini’s future

Jose Mourinho is confident about Romelu Lukaku’s chances of being fit for the FA Cup final, and believes Marouane Fellaini will sign a new deal with Manchester United.

Utd travel to Brighton on Friday aiming to tighten their grip on second place in the Premier League, although the Portuguese manager will have to make do without his first-choice striker for the encounter.

Lukaku limped off during the game with Arsenal last weekend with an ankle niggle, and is currently back in Belgium, where he was captured on film moving with ease in a medicine ball exercise on Thursday.

Those images have led many to believe the 24-year-old’s injury is not as bad as first feared, and Mourinho confirmed the forward should be fit enough to take part in some form against Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 19.

“I don’t know (how he is),” Mourinho said. “I just know that, of course, (he is) not (available) tomorrow. Apart from that, we need to wait for more scans, more time but not tomorrow.”

Asked if there was a chance for the FA Cup final, Mourinho added: “Hope so. Looks positive.”

When discussing the future of Fellaini, Mourinho said: “In Marouane’s case, destiny is in his hands and he will decide what makes him happier.

“He knows that I want him to stay, he knows that the club wants him to stay. He has an offer from us and it’s up to him now to (say) yes or no.

“I am still positive because I feel that he likes to be here, I feel that he likes the feeling of the manager trusting him and I think there is a good chance for him to stay. But if he leaves, so be it and be happy.”

 

Edmund hopeful of Davis Cup involvement

Australian Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund has revealed he still intends to participate in the Davis Cup on Friday, when Great Britain face Spain.

The 23-year-old had struggled with a minor hip problem endured during the semi-final defeat to Marin Cilic – a result that halted his incredible run in Melbourne.

The new world number 26 is still hopeful he can represent GB, and released a statement in advance: “Since arriving in Marbella on Monday I have been doing my best to get match-ready for the tie.

“My intention is to play as I love Davis Cup and representing my country. My body has a few niggles and the transition from any surface to clay is not an easy one.

“Things are improving and I’m taking a day at a time at the moment. I wanted to keep you informed of the latest news and thanks to everyone for all the support.”

Should Edmund deem himself not fit enough to play in the first-round tie, Britain would be forced to take on Spain with two players ranking outside the top 100 (Cameron Norrie and Liam Broady) involved.

Play is scheduled to get under way at Club de Tenis Puente Romano on Friday.

Ozil set to sign new deal with Gunners

Arsenal have been handed a huge boost after it emerged that Mesut Ozil is expected to sign a contract extension with the club.

The German’s current deal expires in the summer, and there had been huge speculation suggesting his future was to lie elsewhere.

Manchester United was just one of the big name clubs that were touted to be keen on making a move.

The news follows the announcement that the club had agreed a club-record deal to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund on transfer deadline day.

The BBC report that the new deal would run through until 2021, and would be worth £350,000 a week before tax – making him the highest-paid Arsenal player in the club’s history.

Ozil joined the Gunners from Real Madrid in 2013, for a then club-record £42m transfer fee.

The Magic Of The Cup: Five Classic FA Cup Finals

The FA Cup is the oldest football competition still in existence throughout the world today. It may have been superseded by the Premier League and Champions League in terms of importance by some clubs across the country but for many its romance and history reigns supreme still to this day.

The ‘magic’ of the cup may be diminished in comparison to its former standing as the greatest knockout competition in the world but in what other competition can you witness the likes of non-league Hereford Town, Ronnie Radford et al beating the mighty Newcastle United (1972), minnows Sutton United knocking out 1987 Cup winners Coventry City (1989), and lowly Wrexham dumping reigning league champions Arsenal out of the cup at the Racecourse (1992)? Nowhere.

More recently we’ve witnessed relegated Wigan Athletic beating mega-wealthy Manchester City against all the odds in the 2013 final, League One outfit Bradford City recovering from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Premier League leaders Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in 2015 and just last February Lincoln City shocking Premier League Burnley to become the first non-league club since 1914 to reach the cup quarter-finals.

Here we take a moment to remind ourselves of five of the greatest FA Cup finals in the competition’s long and illustrious 137-year history.

Blackpool 4 Bolton Wanderers 3 – 1953

Nicknamed the ‘Matthews final’ after the great Blackpool and England winger Stanley Matthews match-of-the-match performance, this was the first great Cup Final captured live on television. And what a final it was, pitching 38-year-old Matthews and Stan Mortensen up against the great Bolton and England forward Nat Lofthouse.

And it was Lofthouse who would draw first blood, firing home through Blackpool keeper George Farm’s hands from the edge of the area after barely a minute’s play to continue his run of scoring a goal in every round of the cup. The Seasiders drew level courtesy of a cross-shot from Mortensen before another error from Farm allowed Willie Moir to put the Trotters back in front before the interval. And 10 minutes after the restart, Bolton increased their advantage courtesy of the hobbling Eric Bell.

3-1 down and with just 22 minutes left to play, Matthews came into his own, first crossing for Mortensen to reduce the arrears before the Tangerines centre-forward equalised direct from a free-kick to complete his hat-trick with less than two minutes to play. And with seconds remaining on the clock an amazing turnaround was completed when Bill Perry fired home another Matthews cross to win the cup for Blackpool and atone for their previous losses in 1948 and 1951.

Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2 – 1979

Having waved a fond farewell to legendary manager Bertie Mee the previous summer, Arsenal entered the 1979 final against cup holders Manchester United under the tutelage of former player Terry Neill. The 3-2 victory over their northern rivals would prove to be Neill’s only trophy at the helm of the Gunners, but what a dramatic way it was to win their first cup since 1971.

Midfielder Brian Talbot from close range and a Frank Stapleton header from a Liam Brady cross put Arsenal two-up and coasting towards cup glory before half-time. But following a less than entertaining second half, with four minutes of the final remaining, United’s giant Scot Gordon McQueen restored some hope for the travelling Mancunian supporters with a left-footed shot from inside the area. And incredibly just two minutes later Northern Ireland international Sammy McIlroy, after evading two challenges, scuffed home past Pat Jennings to bring the Red Devils level to keep their hopes of retaining the trophy they won 12 months earlier against Liverpool firmly alive.

But with the match seemingly set to enter 30 minutes of extra time, Neill’s men made one last attack through Brady and latching onto a superb Graham Rix cross, Alan Sunderland stretched to volley home the winning goal in a match that would later be affectionately dubbed ‘the five minute final.’

Coventry City 3 Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 1987

What a match this proved to be, one of the best FA Cup finals ever according to many experts. It pitted seven-time Cup winners Tottenham against first-time finalists Coventry with the North Londoner’s having never lost a final previously and going for a record eighth triumph.

With just two minutes on the clock, David Pleat’s Lilywhites were already living up to their tag as overwhelming favourites, Clive Allen heading home Chris Waddle’s delicious right wing cross to put Spurs one up, his 49th goal of a stellar season. However, with just eight minutes of the final played, John Sillett’s Sky Blues were level, winger Dave Bennett rounding Spurs goalkeeper Ray Clemence to fire home.

Spurs regained their lead before the interval, captain Gary Mabbutt deflecting home after Coventry’s Cyrille Regis had seen a header disallowed at the opposite end. With just over an hour played however, Sillett’s stubborn charges were back on level terms when forward Keith Houchen scored an iconic equaliser, a diving header from Bennett’s tantalising centre. The scores remained level for the rest of normal time but just six minutes into extra time the unfortunate Mabbutt deflected a Lloyd McGrath cross up and over a stranded Clemence for the match-winning goal. The Sky Blues had broken their duck, ending Tottenham’s unbeaten run in finals and with it spoiled Glenn Hoddle’s last appearance for the North London giants.

Liverpool 3 Everton 2 – 1989

Played just five weeks after the devastating Hillsborough disaster, the red and blue sides of Merseyside descended upon the English capital determined to produce a final worthy of dedicating to the memory of all those affected by the tragic events in Sheffield.

Following a moving rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ led by Gerry Marsden, the match kicked off and within four minutes Liverpool were one ahead, John Aldridge confidently dispatching Steve McMahon’s pass into the top corner of the net. The game remained 1-0 with the full time whistle imminent, only for Everton substitute Stuart McCall to snatch an equaliser from close range with the last kick of the game to prompt a mini pitch invasion from delighted Everton supporters.

Five minutes into extra time Liverpool striker Ian Rush, on as a replacement having returned from a brief season-long sojourn to Italy with Juventus, swivelled to volley Kenny Dalglish’s men back in front. However, within five minutes, McCall had dragged the Colin Harvey’s men level once more with a superb volley from the edge of the area to leave Bruce Grobbelaar helpless in the Reds goal. Yet Liverpool were not to be denied and Rush, so often the nemesis of Everton over the years including in the 1986 Cup final, would once again be the one to break Evertonian hearts as he stooped low to flick home John Barnes’ cross past an exposed Neville Southall and seal Liverpool’s fourth and most emotional cup final victory.

Liverpool 3 West Ham United 3 (3-1 on penalties) – 2006

Better known as ‘the Gerrard final,’ Liverpool emerged victorious from the 2006 FA Cup final following a 3-3 draw and a penalty shoot out win over Alan Pardew’s West Ham. On a gloriously sunny afternoon at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the venue for all cup finals during Wembley’s rebuild, the Reds skipper just as he had done 12 months earlier in Istanbul, inspired his teammate’s recovery after falling behind.

West Ham took a two-goal first half lead thanks to an own goal from Jamie Carragher and a poacher’s goal from Dean Ashton, but before half-time a sumptuous lofted pass from Gerrard enabled Djibril Cisse to halve the deficit. Gerrard himself slammed home an equaliser from a Peter Crouch knockdown with nine minutes of the second half played, but just past the hour mark future Liverpool left-back Paul Konchesky watched his lofted cross sail over Pepe Reina and into the Reds goal to put the Irons back in the lead.

And the score remained the same right up until the last seconds of the match when Gerrard with a thunderbolt of a half-volley from fully 35 yards scored one of the best FA Cup final goals ever seen to draw his boyhood club level at the death. Reina would prove the hero in the resulting shoot out following two goalless periods of extra time saving from Konchesky, Bobby Zamora and Anton Ferdinand. But the real hero of the hour, not for the first time in the club’s history would be captain fantastic Gerrard who would lift Liverpool’s seventh FA Cup trophy.

The Magic Of The Cup

The magic of the FA Cup is well and truly alive as Wigan’s victory over West Ham and Newport County’s heroic efforts against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday proved. The Cup has produced some truly wonderful moments over the last 137 years but what new memories will this year’s competition inspire? You can find all the best fourth round replay, fifth round match and overall competition odds at Sun Bets.

Spurs boost as Alderweireld nears return

Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld could be set to make his return to first team action when his side face Newport in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

The defender has been sidelined since the beginning of November with a hamstring injury.

The Belgian did, however, join back in with full training this week, following in the footsteps of Danny Rose who has also recovered from an injury.

Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris will both be given every chance of playing despite suffering from an illness.

Serge Aurier will be missing with a calf problem, whilst Harry Winks and Erik Lamela are both doubts.

Why Min Should Be Taken Seriously in Champion Chase

While much of the betting chatter around this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival will inevitably centre around Altior and Douvan, there is another contender who might go quietly under the radar before coming up big on the day – Min.

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This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

The current ante-post betting picture looks like this:

Horse: Odds: (Ladbrokes)
Altior 11/8
Politologue 7/2
Yorkhill 5/1
Douvan 5/1
Min 5/1
Fox Norton 8/1
Great Field 14/1

The tight odds show that the Champion Chase is a little bit of a puzzle at the moment. You can keep up to date with the latest goings on in the betting markets (which will surely change over the coming weeks) for Cheltenham at https://www.freebets.co.uk/cheltenham-festival/, where you will also find information on picking up free bets for the 2018 Festival.

The two names that jump out of the list above are, of course, Douvan and Altior. What a race it would be if those two superstars were at their best? Both are regarded as among the best horses to have graced the Festival in the last decade, but both have big injury doubts hanging over their heads. Yes, both have been officially registered for the race, but neither Willie Mullins (Douvan’s trainer) nor Nicky Henderson (Altior’s trainer) are particularly confident of their participation.

Min Rarely Outclassed Over Fences or Hurdles

Which brings us to Min. Also trained by Willie Mullins, the 7-year-old has a record of five wins and two 2nds in his seven races. One of those 2nds was in his last race (Leopardstown, 27/12/2017), where he was demoted after being found to impede Simply Ned on the run in. The other was over hurdles, in what was Altior’s ‘breakout’ race – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016.

Apart from those races, which were by no means poor showings, Min has been pretty much imperious over fences. If punters truly want to see Min’s class, take a look at his comeback race at Gowran Park in November 2017. While it was a small field, lacking the class of the runners at Cheltenham, Min’s 36 length victory was achieved without getting out of second gear. It was a big statement, which proved Min was 100% fit after a long injury lay-off.

There is certainly something exciting about Min, made all the more intriguing by the fact we have only seen him in action six times since he burst onto the scene by winning his debut at Punchestown in 2015. He is also a scrappy horse, has never fallen and is rarely spooked when running in close proximity to other horses in aggressive races. Such attributes will stand Min in good stead when it comes to the Champion Chase.

Oscar-Whisky-with-owner-Dai-Walters-and-trainer-Nicky-Henderson

Min Can Capitalise on Injury Worries of Douvan and Altior

The point trying to be made here us that a fully-fit Altior or Douvan would likely be too much for Min to handle. But there is a strong likelihood that neither of these superstars run at Cheltenham. Moreover, if they do run, they may well be rushed back too soon from injury. Is Min capable of winning in such conditions? Absolutely. Even if Douvan and Altior do make a full recovery, is Min capable of pulling something special out of the bag to nick the win? Once again, absolutely. The great and the good of horse racing should not be surprised if that ends up being the case.

Who Were the Top Five Standout Golfers of 2017?

An exceptionally strong core of young American golfers asserted its dominance over the sport in emphatic style in 2017.

US stars with an average age of 25 won three out of the four available majors and the future looks extremely bright for the American Ryder Cup team. Fans across the world were treated to another thrilling 12 months of golf in 2017, a year packed full of intriguing storylines, star turns from budding giants of the game and plenty of nail-biting finishes to big tournaments. Here are the top five stars of 2017:

  1. Justin Rose

Rose achieved T10 finishes in his final 10 tournaments of 2017 to move up to sixth in the world. He won three of his last six, including a sensational eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Open, and heads into 2018 in fine form. He went into a sudden-death playoff against his great friend Sergio Garcia at The Masters, only to miss out on winning a second career major. But he responded superbly and improved as the year went on. At the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in October, he went into the final day trailing by eight shots but stormed back to overhaul world number one Dustin Johnson on the final day to claim an improbable victory. He will be a real threat to the golfing elite at this year’s majors thanks to his all-round brilliance.

  1. Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama can now lay claim to being the world’s best player without a major to his name. The Japanese has long held down a place in the top five of the Official World Golf Ranking chart and rose as high as number two when he finished runner-up at the US Open in June. He shared the lead at the halfway stage of the PGA Championship before falling away, and it seems like only a matter of time before the 25-year-old joins an elite club of major winners. But he still won three Tour titles, including his first World Golf Championship, along with $8.4 million in prize money in 2017, and displayed great consistency throughout the year.

  1. Dustin Johnson

It is testament to Johnson’s prowess that he held onto the world number one spot throughout 2017, despite suffering an injury that kept him out of the Masters. He did not add to his tally of majors in 2017, but he did win four Tour titles for the first time and moved up to sixth in the career money list. He also became the first player to ever win all four WGC crowns after a dominant performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event. Johnson is on the ninth longest streak atop the world rankings in PGA tour history and nobody looks like dislodging him any time soon.

  1. Jordan Spieth

Spieth roared back to form in 2017, winning his third career major at The Open and taking two further Tour titles. Spieth was named PGA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and continued to impress the following year, but really hit the big time in 2015. That year he won the Masters and the US Open at the tender age of 22, establishing himself as a superstar of the present and the future. He reached number one in the world and was expected to continue his dominance in 2016, but his form tailed off.

He suffered one of the most spectacular collapses of all-time at The Masters, blowing a five-shot lead, and dropped to third in the world, with just one title and no majors to his name.

2017 was a comeback year of epic proportions as Spieth, who took his 10th PGA title with a playoff win in the Travelers Championship. At Royal Birkdale he claimed The Open, becoming only the second man after Jack Nicklaus to win three of the four majors before his 24th birthday. A couple of runner-up finishes put him in contention for the FedEx Cup title, but he ultimately finished second, as well as ending up second on the 2017 money list. He is expected to continue his resurgence in 2018 and is currently the favourite in the US Masters 2018 odds as he has been exceptionally strong at Augusta over the years.

  1. Justin Thomas

Thomas enjoyed a breakout year in 2017 and usurped childhood friend Spieth by topping the money list, winning the FedEx Cup and claiming a first major.

Thomas was named PGA Golfer of the Year and earned a cool $9.9 million throughout 2017. While Spieth and Thomas were always considered wunderkinds, it was the former that rose to stardom quicker, soaring to the top of the world rankings, while Thomas claimed just one Tour victory in his first two years as a pro and was lurking on the outskirts of the elite. But Spieth’s success pushed him to achieve greater feats and he delivered on his promise in 2017, winning the PGA Championship ahead of Matsuyama.

He took five Tour titles in total and dominated the end of year awards. He finished 2017 at number three in the world rankings and the future looks extremely rosy for American golf thanks to the talents of Thomas, Spieth, Johnson, Rickie Fowler, US Open winner Brooks Koepka and more. But right now Thomas is in the ascendancy and he is the man to beat heading into 2018’s majors.

 

 

Swansea appoint ex-Wednesday boss Carvalhal

Swansea City have announced that Carlos Carvalhal will take over as the club’s first team manager for the remainder of the season.

Carvalhal was sacked by Sky Bet Championship side Sheffield Wednesday on the 24th, which made the announcement that he would be taking over at the Premier League club a surprise.

Swansea sit bottom of the table on 13 points from the first 20 games, a record which cost Paul Clement his job with the club earlier in the month.

The only goal handed to the Portuguese manager will be to do the unthinkable and save the Swans from relegation.

The Welsh club have said that their new manager’s contract included the option of an extension when the season ends.

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said in a statement: “We are very pleased with the appointment.

“We felt we needed to get the managerial situation resolved as soon as possible and while the timing is not always perfect, we can look forward to the second half of the campaign with renewed optimism.

“Carlos’ time at Sheffield Wednesday, which included securing two consecutive play-off places, highlighted that he has great character and personality to lead the squad and the football club, which is vital at such a crucial time.

“He has built up a lot of experience over the years which will ensure the team is structured and organised.

“He is driven and ambitious and, while he has a big challenge ahead of him, I know he will tackle it without fear.”

Freebets.org is the place to go to use a free bet to back Carvalhal to save Swansea from relegation from the Premier League this season.