Can anyone catch Liverpool?

Klopp


As 2019 begins we have a runaway leader in the Premier League….and perhaps not the team many would expect. Liverpool currently sit on top of the pile of the Premier League and they look to be rooted there for a while. Some would say it is hardly a surprise due to the slow revolution Jurgen Klopp has been putting in place whilst others may point to the fact Liverpool have always promised but never really delivered in the Premier League era! But who can catch them?

First let us look at Liverpool themselves. The front line they have is one of, if not the best, in world football…Mane, Firmino and Salah. If they keep fit and on form then it is hard to see them failing! If they lose one or two to injury or they hit a bad patch of form, then it could lead to the old fashioned Liverpool slump.

The nearest contender would be Manchester City who were the pace setters until a bad set of luck including injuries and some shock results. They will hit form again and it all depends on how that form affects the pressure on Liverpool at the top. Manchester City and Pep have been there before and the experience in the title race may well be the key difference. My gut instinct says City have enough quality, enough experience and enough time to be able to topple Liverpool and take the title.

Spurs – Apart from Gooners, I imagine a lot of neutrals would  like to see Spurs have a strong run at the title. They certainly have the players, have the manager and have the most devastating striker in the Premier League. However, the feeling generally is that they lack 2-3 world class players in the squad and are prone to the dodgy results that plague their season.  2nd place would be a better aim!

Arsenal – Despite the post-Wegner resurgence, Arsenal have faded to the back line of title contention due to a start in which they lost key points. All signs are pointing to a successful reign under Emery but battling for 4th place is more in their sites!

Chelsea – Started well and certainly have a squad deep enough to go long into the season , but something about Chelsea always suggests they lack the cutting edge. Whilst Liverpool have breezed past teams and washed them away with their free flowing attacking football, Chelsea have grinded out results and never fully clicked into gear. A top 4 place looks likely but they need to be careful

Manchester united – Optimism is high after Jose’s departure, but the bare facts remain that United are under staffed and too far behind to even perhaps get back into the champions league fold. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer may well restore some faith to Old Trafford, but getting them into title contention will have to wait until the next reign.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be a dramatic season and proof again that the Premier League is the finest league in the world!

Liverpool’s Champions League Chances

With the hunt for the league title now gone, and a top 4 place all but secured, Liverpool will be focusing the latter stages of the Champions League, and whoever lies next in wait will not wanting to be playing a Anfield in the next round.  But how far can Liverpool go? Are they genuine contenders for Champion League glory?

If everything falls into place, Jurgen Klopp has one of the most dynamic, fluid and dangerous attacking line ups in the Champions League. Despite the sale of arguable their most unique player, Mo Salah is coring for fun and when  Mane and Firmino hit top stride, there is very little defences can do to cope with them. But can they sustain these over 2 legged affairs with the very best sides in Europe?

Liverpool have shown far too often, in the biggest of games, that Klopp’s style does not win out on a consistent basis and there have been several times this season, including the 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford this past weekend, when the team have failed to click and looked rather pedestrian and average. If a defence can unite to keep Salah and Mane under wraps, Liverpool over very little else with the midfield struggling to create. This may help them against the lower end of the Premier League sides, but on the biggest stage of them all, it will cost them. Their win against Porto in the Last 16 was very impressive but bigger, tough sides await and even the English teams they may face during their run can cause them problems.

When you add in the state of the Liverpool defence, even with the addition of Virgila Van Dijk, it doesn’t provide a very positive outlook. Yes, to give credit where it is due, Liverpool have reached the quarter final stage, and as they have proven in the past anything is possible at this stage, but watching Liverpool does not inspire you with confidence they can beat 3 better teams to lift the trophy.

Getting to the final will be the harder task than winning it…if they do reach the final and Salah,  Mane and Firmino hit strides, they can trouble anyone and outscore any team. But beating one of the remaining teams over 2 legs, with a suspect defence and goalkeeper may be out of their reach. Is there a team remaining in the last 8 who you would expect Liverpool to beat? Perhaps not…Juventus have proven they have the defensive capability to keep Liverpool quiet, the remaining English sides would all fancy their chances over two legs and Real Madrid and Barcelona will relish playing against that back four at Anfield.

If Liverpool fans had a realistic head on their shoulders, they should recognise that a season ending in 3rd place in the league and having made the quarter finals of the champions League, is certainly an achievement in itself and certainly something to be proud of. Yes there is no silverware to cherish, but in a season when a club have sold their best player, and have had to contend with impressive Manchester teams, then that is no small achievement at all.

Where now for Liverpool?

LFC

Liverpool fans will be waking up after a weekend which saw them firmly put in place by a Manchester United team driven, motivated and with a returning Marcus Rashford to punish a lacklustre defence. Jurgen Klopp must be heading to training this morning frustrated that he was unable to make up a plan to break down a resilient Untied defence and that the free flowing, heavy scoring football of recent weeks just did not click. United have presented a blue print of how to deal with the feared front line of Liverpool and made Mo Salah, who has not been able to stop scoring, nullified into a passenger.

Although Everton is the local derby, the games against Manchester United always define where Liverpool are and even the most hardened fan of the Reds must admit that at the weekend, they were a long way behind Manchester United in terms of tactics, clinical finishing and big match experience. Salah and Mane have excelled at ripping apart lesser teams, but faced with a well organised defence and a tactic aimed at stopping them, they failed to shine. The rest of the team lacked inspiration and did not look like a patch on the team that could be considered one of the most attractive in world football. Klopp must take some responsibility…arguable the biggest match of his 2018 went with a whimper and now he must look to settling for 3rd at best.

The question lingers after the performance at the weekend, will a 3rd place finish and no trophies represent a success for Liverpool. Of course, a good run or unlikely win in the Champions League would change the season altogether, but in realistic terms it looks like the 3rd place finish is the best they can hope for?

In a season where 6 teams began with Champions League qualification hopes, it must be outlined that the 4 teams who manage to qualify have at least achieved the minimum. As March began, the league title was sown up, Arsenal looked to have dropped from contention and baring a disaster Liverpool are safely in.

Surely fans must expect more? Selling your finest player is never going to produce immediate returns, but the emergence of the attacking line has been a revelation but for all the positives that are talked about the Klopp revolution and the Klopp way, the simple fact remains that Liverpool are as far away from the title as they have ever been. They can easily dominate the teams below them, they can score freely when the game is going their way but when their backs are against the wall and they come up against a resilient defence,  there is no Plan B and they team fizzles out.

If the season ends with Liverpool lifting the Champions League trophy Klopp and this team will be hailed as legends and talked about in the same manner as the 2005 team who failed in the league yet won the biggest prize. If they remain trophiless and 3rd, questions will be asked. Can they accept another season of getting no closer to the league title?

Man United V Liverpool Post Match Analysis

Liverpool v Man Utd

The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United takes on an especially more reverent tone when the two teams are within close proximity in the league. With the league title out of reach, and both teams looking secure in the top four, the match up on Saturday was perhaps the biggest domestic game the teams had left.

Prior to the game, the focus had been on the tactics of Jose Mourinho…what approach would he take? Would he park that ever popular bus? He surprised everyone from the off by giving Marcus Rashford his first start of 2018 and boy, did that pay off!

Manchester United see Liverpool as their main rivals, and the Old Trafford faithful seem to have really played this up the further Manchester City become out of reach, and hence Old Trafford was louder than it has been for some time. It can be quite demotivating to a fan base, used to winning, to be so far behind their city rivals in second,  but to beat Liverpool is a must for any Manchester United Manager.

United looked strong throughout and Liverpool rarely threatened, evidenced by the fact that it took a rather comical own goal from Eric Bailly to give them hope. Mo Salah, prolifically free scoring all season, was marked out of the game and Mane, Firmino and Milner failed to get control. Liverpool looked out of ideas and the fast, free flowing fizzing football they have been playing under Klopp was attempted, but had no chance of breaking down a resilient United.

The pressure applied to the known weakness of Dejan Lovren paid off and the ever imposing threat of Roman Lukaku bullying the back for was just too much. The goals United scored showed a tactical awareness of these defensive weakness and both goals emerged from long balls aimed at the weak centre backs, of which Rashford was able to take control.

With England manager Gareth Southgate watching on, his eyes must surely have lit up seeing the electric form of Rashford, causing problems for the defensive, clinical finishing and an eye for goal.  If this form continues, surely he has to be in the world cup plans as a starter? You can check out his odd with Mobilebet Voucher Code 2018 An on for Rashford may also be the key to United sticking with 2nd place.

But will 2nd place be satisfying to United fans? Even the most hardened pro-United anti-City resident of Old Trafford must admit that they are by far the second best team in the league this season, and that coming 2nd is an achievement. With 6 teams now competing for the top 4 spaces, United remain ahead of everyone who-is-not-Man-City. The worry will be how they can move on an breach that gap? Seville come to Old Trafford in the Champions League this week in what will be another test for this emerging team. Could a run to the final of the Champions League be the spur to set United up for a title challenge next season? Only time will tell…

 

Who will finish in the top 4?

If someone would have told me at the start of the season when writing this article that one team would be running away with the title, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are with 2018 beginning and every football fan with any common sense must sense that the league title race is over. Manchester City are not only picking up the points, but doing so in a style that suggest they will never be stopped. I hear fans from time to time hark back to the days when Newcastle, in the 1995-1996 season, where 12 points clear at this stage only to lose out to Man United……we are talking about different teams. Keegan’s Toon Army were a attacking machine but lacked the quality Manchester do. Newcastle got results by outscoring, not necessarily outplaying, teams whereas Manchester City are dominating every game from the first to the last moment. It would take a brave betting man to think they will blow it from here!

In a nutshell, assuming it is over let us take a look at the 5 teams aiming to fill the other 3 places in that top 4…

Manchester United – Somewhat a fall from grace as 2017 came to a close. As the season began it was United getting the rave reviews and plaudits and many predicting they would run away with the league but it simply hasn’t happened, and with several players form up and down, unless something major clicks they are going to struggle to hold on to second. Still, I believe they have enough firepower to secure that Top four place. Prediction – 2nd

Arsenal – Amidst all the Wenger out chants and contract disputes, Arsenal have kept on winning game, including some against top 4 rivals. Quietly, but surely, Arsene Wenger has got his side singing off the same hymn sheet and it all seems to be going well. Although the extensive demands of the Europa League may play into matters, Arsenal look good and if they hit form at the right time of the season could have a very happy fan base when the season ends . Prediction – 3rd

Chelsea – Solid, secure and pick up wins when they need to. Without having that X factor that City and United possess they are vulnerable to the odd shock but Conte should find himself in the Champions League next season. Prediction – 4th

Salah

Liverpool – Free scoring and fun to watch but the rate of goals and impressive results will fade. The champions League will take a toll and Van Dijk is not enough to make that defence work. Prediction – 5th

Spurs – Anything is possible when Harry Kane lines up in your side, but Spurs stuttered at the start of the season and have stuttered ever since. Already playing catch up, the fixtures don’t look kind to Spurs and they will have to endure another season without Champions League football next year…let us just hope thus doesn’t turn Harry Kane’s head

Is Van Dijk the answer for Liverpool?

LFC

One of the longest running, and lets face it, most tedious transfer sagas of the Summer has dragged over into the January Transfer window and it appears that finally, Jurgen Klopp has his man and Virgil Van Dijk is on his way to Anfield and boy it is one hell of a big bet www.mybestbettingsites.co.uk. Whether it has became a matter of pride and Liverpool have paid over the odds to make a point and get their man, or whether Virgil Van Dijk is going to be the man to transform Liverpool…..only time will tell!

Liverpool ‘s problem this season has been two fold….the defence and the goalkeeper. They have had no issues scoring goals and tearing teams apart with their attacking might. Indeed, Salah, Firmino and Mane provide a front three to rival any team in the world, and add Coutinho into the mix an you have one of the most potent attacking forces in world football. Indeed, the midfield has ben able to provide the support the front line needs and watching Liverpool you always get a feeling they are moments away from scoring. However….the defence is another story.

The very first game of the season set the standard, with shoddy defending and marking being a feature of the campaign since. Is it just down the players? Is it bad management? Whatever the story Jurgen Klopp has no excuses now as to why his team are leaking goals. He has Virgil Van Dijk, his world record defensive purchase, and he has the man he has touted for almost a year…..if they still fail with arguable one of the worlds bets centre backs at the core of the team, then it has to be the coach to blame.

But that is not the only problem they have. It is all well and good splashing out bug bucks for but the issue a lot of fans, and pundits see, as much deeper than that is the man between the sticks. Many teams have struggled over the years with goalkeepers and any defence is only as good as the keeper, and Liverpool are finding this out the hard way. Constant errors and mishaps….as well as the comment you here time and time again watching Liverpool games “he should have saved that” are a worry for all concerned. Will Klopp dip into the transfer market and reinforce the goalkeeping position? Who is actually available and with the £75 million already spent on Virgil Van Dijk is there any more money in the transfer fund!

Only time will tell, and January will be a very interesting month to see if Liverpool are going to put all their defensive woe eggs into one basket and hope Virgil Van Dijk is the answer. But then the bigger questions will come….how will Virgil Van Dijk cope under the new pressure he will find himself under? Being the worlds most expensive defender he is going to have to quickly get used to the fact that every single move he does in every single game will be under the microscope. Can Virgil Van Dijk take Liverpool back into the champions league and beyond? It is going to be interesting to find out…

Who has done the best business in this transfer window?

Transfer Window

The mad rush of the summer transfer window is finally over and we can now start to assess which teams have had the greatest of successes in the transfer window. Clubs will never be able to please all of the fans all of the time, and hence you may disagree with the choices, but these are the 5 Premier League clubs who have had the best transfer window –

  1. Manchester United – Jose was sitting relaxed on transfer deadline day as all his business was done early and done well, as proven by their thumping start. Lukaku is a goal machine, a striker with a proven hit record and a game changer. But the most important signing may well prove to be Matic who completes the United jigsaw and will be there in the engine room to drive the team onwards to glory on many fronts.

 

  1. Everton – Not only can you class the return of a motivated and England-free Wayne Rooney as one of the best singings of the summer, but bringing in someone with proven premier league experience such as Mr Sigurdsson and you have a team who are solid from 1-11 and with good back up. Holding onto Ross Barkley may also prove to be a useful move once the later stages of the league and Europa League hit.

 

  1. Liverpool – Staying on Merseyside and with Mo Salah and the Ox firming up the team they have improved in the quality of their attack. Holding onto to Coutinho may prove to be handy should he start to be included in the team, but Mo Salah creates a front line three with Firmino and Mane that looks unstoppable. Yes not tempting VVD away from St Marys is disappointing and there are defensive questions, but Liverpool should be pleased with the window.

  1. West Brom – Not the most fashionable of clubs but look at who they have brought in and you will see why WBA are being talked about as contender’s for a Top 10 finish. Proven Premier League players such as Gibbs and Barry to add to the new blood in the team makes for an exciting prospect indeed.

 

  1. Chelsea – Finally landed Llorente to add to the fire power provided by the arrival of Morata gives Chelsea chance to move away from reliance on want away Diego Costa. But one of the best signings of the window may indeed prove to be Danny Drinkwater. Reunited with Kante the Chelsea midfield, with Bakayoko involved in the mix, makes a solid team who will be hard to beat.

What about the worst business? One of the contenders must be Newcastle United who have not invested to match the ambition of the fans or indeed Rafa Benitez. With a lack of proven premier league quality and a slow start to the season, nerves must be shaking at St James Park and without a huge recruitment in January, they will have a long season.

What has though been odd about this window is the battle for players to leave clubs, and their insistence to stay…never before have we seen such sagas together as Coutinho, VVD and Sanchez. It has made for a rather uncomfortable and, at times, dull series of events,

So the transfer talk can subside for the time being and we can look forward to the start of the Champions League, the Premier League to start taking shape and all the usual dramas that come with a football seasons. Buckle your seat belts as its going to a bumpy ride…

 

EPL Spending Power in the Transfer Window – Summer 2017

Transfer Window

As summer begins to hit, the cheque books start to come out as the clubs in the EPL begin to splash the cash on players from around the club. Whether they have ambitions of league titles, champions league success or indeed merely staying in the division, the budgets that some of the EPL clubs will be toying with this transfer window are larger than ever. But what can we expect from the money flowing in the league? Who will be the big movers and shakers? And what are the odds that the world transfer record may be surpassed – maybe more than once? So who has the capital to back up their desires and dominate this transfer window.

Eyes must begin in the City of Manchester where the two rival clubs will be amongst the biggest spenders. The spending power of Manchester City seems to be unrivalled but there is every chance Manchester United will smash their own transfer record with the addition of a much needed striker, now that a certain Swede is no longer leading the line. Manchester City’s owners have made to clear to Pep Guardiola that he should set his sights no lower than a unprecedented quadruple haul of trophies and this will mean the cash will have to come out. It is unlikely any other club will match the spending power at City. Over at Manchester United “The Special One” has had time to build and after qualifying for the Champions League, the temptation to join the legendary red devils may be too much. Griezman, Bale…..all rumoured and I would imagine a £100 million player into Old Trafford is not unlikely.

What about the Champions? They certainly have money to spend but in the past that hasn’t always helped them. Last year Chelsea were such a force as they had no European football to occupy their midweek time, but this year they will be back in the Champions League and will need to add a range of players for back up. I don’t expect anything major but a few £20 million plus players should arrive. Liverpool have been throwing ridiculous prices around for the likes of Virgil Van Dyke and Jurgen Klopp clearly has big deals in mind. Anfield has struggled in the past few seasons to be the attractive place it once was but with the Champions League money, the lure of playing for a club with an impressive a history as any and the chance to work with Klopp, I imagine Liverpool will take up this chance with big spending power to match.

The team that will be very interesting in terms of spending power is Arsenal. The lack of Champions League may prove problematic in attracting the very best, but with money in the bank there could still be big moves to the Emirates. Wenger will know he has to buy to keep up and get back in the top 4 and they should still have the spending power to back it up!

Outside of the major clubs in the league, it will be interesting to see how the new boys cope. St James Park should see big money deals taking place as the boss has made it clear the team don’t have enough to secure a decent finish. Even when you look at clubs like Bournemouth, throwing £120,000 a week at Jermain Defoe to sign shows how much money is kicking around at all clubs. At the end of the day, the spending power of the clubs in the EPL has never been greater and although some will show caution, I expect the newspapers will be full of tales of big money buys and records will be broken. Which in turn, should lead to even more excitement for fans!

What is wrong at Liverpool?

Earlier in the season, the Jurgen Klopp revolution over at Anfield was in full swing. The team played a unique brand of football, were easy on the eye and racking up the points and looked like serious contenders for honours across all fronts. It is a common joke amongst football fans that the Liverpool faithful claim “it is out year next year”  but for once it truly felt like it was and Anfield had so much optimism.

Roll the clock forwards to the first months of 2017 and how things have changed. On the pitch the team have lost the spark, the result have been poor and rivals seemed to have found simple ways to stop Klopp’s taruhan bola system. But it is the same system as always…..Liverpool can take down the bigger teams but cannot pick up the points against the strugglers.

The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and home point against Chelsea are results that fans should not grumble too much about, and indeed the emphatic wins over Arsenal and Spurs are proof that Liverpool can truly live it up with the best of teams. The big occasions bring out the big performances and the top sides in the Premier League fear playing Liverpool as they know these performances can be destructive

But the teams struggling at the bottom of the table can see Liverpool as a potential chance to pick up points. Away defeats, and comprehensive defeats at Hull City and Leicester City are evidence  that this team, this year, with these players are NOT title contenders. As March began the team were 14 points off the title pace and seemingly destined for a battle to get a Champions League spot.

If Liverpool and Klopp fail to get a Champions League spot this season then it is clear that something needs to be done to address why they can perform in the bigger games and not defeat the smaller teams. Who does the blame lie with? Jurgen Klopp indeed is much more animated and involved when he knows he is on  TV in the bigger games and does this translate to the players. Does Klopp’s tactics need called into questions? Indeed….there have been many times during his reign that he has shown tactical naivety when it comes to dealing with teams who place 11 men behind the ball.

What about the players? Do they struggle to get motivated for the away trips to the less glamorous locations in the Premier League? The blame could also lie with Klopp. In this writers opinion, Jurgen Klopp is enticed by the glitz and glamour of the big occasions  and has neither the support, or players with the right mentality to be able to truly get the results against the team who shuts up shop. Does Klopp need help from staff around him with more experience of Premier League teams who are tricky to play against or does he need to rethink his whole system? Whatever the case something needs to be done fast!

Liverpools Transfer Dealings

lfc-transfers

It would be more than fair to say that Liverpool’s transfer kitty has been splashed around, wasted and splashed around again over the past decade in a quest to help them climb back to the top of the Premier League tree. Many an expensive player has been bought and sold on for a loss without making an impact. But what of their Transfer Dealings in the 2016 window. Is it enough to drive Jurgen Klopp’s team into that top 4 where they feel they belong or will it result in another season of frustration at Anfield? According to the TransferMarkt Liverpool have only spent £501,000 on a net basis!

Sadio Mane arrived for £35 million in the latest of a long line of players to make their way from the South Coast to Merseyside. The Price beggars belief in certain extents, but with Mane’s potential to up his game, and his proven track record in the Premier League, it may be worth the gamble. I suspect he will beat his tally of 11 goals last season. Check here for other football betting tips

But one transfer everyone, especially those in the North East questioned, was the £23 million splashed out on Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle. In one or two game last season, he shone in a bad team but to justify that price tag is bizarre. If one transfer this season showed there was far too much money kicking around in the Premier League it is perhaps this one!

Are these signings to inspire the Anfield faithful? Do they get you dreaming of title glory and booking tickets for Europe next year? Or does the lack of ambition and high prices played for these places resign you to another season of “also rans”?

However, Liverpool accountants can justify themselves by pointing to the £15 million taken in for Jordan Ibe. When I first saw this story, I was convinced it was a misprint and was supposed to be £1.5 million…but now. Bournemouth, a team who were several leagues lower only a matter of years ago, paid a whopping £15 million for an unproven player who Liverpool were glad to see the back of. Now you have to say…that’s good business. In fact, the £13 million for Joe Allen and the £26 million received for Christian Benteke, despite being a total flop, were very smooth bits of business on Liverpool’s behalf and meant that, rather shockingly, despite all the new TV money coming in and available to spend, and despite the over inflated figure they paid for their transfers coming in, they ended up making a profit at a time when most clubs cannot spend their money quick enough! Even the £3 million gained for the unknown Brad Smith is a figure that you have to stop and look at twice. Football has officially gone off the wall in insanity!

It would take a betting man to make any sort of bold predictions for or against the likely success of Jurgen Klopp this season, but it sure will be an interesting ride. Champions League contenders or battling for 5th? Who knows where the Kop will be taken this season…

 

The Title Race

EPL

The Title Race

The Premiership season is now in full swing and heavyweights Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea have all got off to a flying start, making them the three favourites to lift the famous trophy in May. The betting odds on all three have drifted in after each won both their opening games, while the odds on rivals like Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Leicester have grown longer after less assured starts.

The 2016/17 season promised to showcase the most open and fascinating title in recent memory. Last season’s top three – surprise champions Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham – were set to challenge once more. Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea had all slipped down the table and invested heavily in highly coveted new managers and some of the best players from across Europe, while Liverpool were tipped as a force under Jurgen Klopp and the likes of West Ham were even seen as being in with a chance.

That fabulous open race with eight teams vying for the title might still happen. But the early signs are ominous for all but City, Utd and Chelsea. Arsenal started as third favourites at 6/1 in the betting odds behind Man City and Man Utd. But a disastrous transfer window followed by a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Liverpool and a 0-0 draw with Leicester has seen them five points off the pace and drift out to 11/1 fourth favourites. Liverpool followed up that win with a miserable defeat by newly promoted Burnley and are 12/1 themselves. Tottenham have taken four points from their first two games, but they are out at 14/1 having not spent a great deal of money themselves in the summer.

Last season Leicester were 5000/1 to win the league but they pulled off a miracle and bet their big-spending rivals to the title. Nobody expected them to repeat the feat, especially after losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea and having to cope with the added pressures of playing Champions League football. They started the season with odds of 33/1 and a crushing opening day defeat at the hands of crisis club Hull and that 0-0 bore draw with Arsenal has seen them drift out to 66/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet and various other bookmakers.

While it is early days it seems like those teams may find themselves vying for fourth place if Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea keep up the good work. City have been a revelation under Pep Guardiola, who has won six titles in seven seasons with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Striker Sergio Aguero is in red hot form – and a good bet at 5/2 with 888 Sport for the Golden Boot if he can stay fit – and the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva seem to enjoy playing Guardiola’s brand of possession football. They started the season with betting odds of 5/2 and were favourites to win it, despite only finishing fourth last season, and that is a reflection of the esteem in which Guardiola is held among the footballing community. They have since gone into 7/4 with Betfred, Bet Victor and Paddy Power after winning both their opening games and steam rollering Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League.

The betting odds on them would probably be even shorter were it not for the resurgence taking place at local rivals Man Utd. In Jose Mourinho they have another born winner with a fantastic track record, and they have broken the world record transfer fee to sign Paul Pogba for their midfield, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a force to be reckoned with up front and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be a much needed source of creativity. They have gone in to 9/4 with some bookmakers, but you can still get 3/1 at Betway.

Finally Chelsea, who have also started with a 100% record, although they have looked the least comfortable in doing so as they have twice had to rely on last ditch Diego Costa strikes to win 2-1 at the death, and many have suggested he shouldn’t have even been on the pitch to score their last winner due to his persistent fouling. They are now 11/2 and third favourites in the betting odds chart, and of the three they look the one most likely to be sucked back into the battle with Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool et al.

It should still prove to be a thrilling battle, but right now it is hard to look past City and Utd, and if pushed you would have to say City have enough about them to finish top of the pile come May.

 

 

Klopp to Liverpool

klopp

As Liverpool FC make the announcement that Jurgen Klopp has been named their latest manager, a lot has been written about whether he will be successful. I think that Liverpool have found an identikit manager for the way the club has been directed by Fenway Sports Group since they took over.

What do I mean?
Well, I can see big parallels between the running of Liverpool and that of Borussia Dortmund during Klopp’s time in charge there. Brendan Rodgers had to deal with losing big name players, and Klopp had the same pressures at Dortmund. Liverpool will probably maintain that they only lost their players under duress but the fact remains that some big stars departed the club:
When?                         Who?                          Notes
Summer 2015                Steven Gerrard             Would have stayed if offered a coaching role

Summer 2015                Raheem Sterling          Wanted Champions League football

Summer 2014                Luis Suarez                    Wanted Barcelona

Summer 2013                Andy Carroll                   Sold for £15 million

Borussia Dortmund couldn’t compete financially with the biggest clubs in Europe, with their national rivals Bayern Munich being one of those teams they couldn’t match Euro for Euro. They simply had to sell when the price was right, or when they couldn’t match the wages when the bigger clubs came in-

When?                             Who?                    Notes
Summer 2014          Robert Lewandowski – out of contract, went to Bayern Munich

Summer 2013          Mario Gotze – scored winner in World Cup Final

Summer 2012          Shinji Kagawa – has now returned

Summer 2011           Nuri Sahin – out of contract, Bundesliga player of the season

Unless Liverpool make major changes to their income, such as a new much bigger stadium or regular progress to the latter stages of the Champions League year after year then Klopp will be working under the same conditions again. He will have to act as Klopp The Dortmund manager when he is working as Klopp the Liverpool manager. And this is the main reason that I think in the long-term he will be a success. He will be operating in the same way under very similar conditions to these he experienced when he was successful.

Similarity is how top managers thrive. Mourinho has been successful with big money clubs – Porto (big money for the Portuguese league), Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid have all afforded him petty big transfer budgets and he has generally come up trumps. One of the main reasons I think that David Moyes failed at Manchester United. He had a defensive team working under a really tight budget and working his scouting team hard to find bargains at Everton. The jump to the world’s biggest club, fans expecting attacking, flowing football and the choice of the best players money could buy was too much for him. Klopp won’t have the same issues as he is swapping like for like.

The one quote that really stands out from his unveiling was the following “If I am sitting here in four years, we will win one title [piece of silverware] in this time.” This is a man of great confidence and someone who has done it before. I think that Klopp is a manager who has a vision for how he wants his team to play and he understands his matchbook. Borussia Dortmund played hard at the transition or breakdown and to achieve this, Klopp and his team worked on fitness levels. The players were able to get back into formation quickly and break at pace when they win the ball. I think that trying to achieve this mid-season is far more difficult to do than when putting in the ground work in pre-season. Because of this, I think that Liverpool may struggle with fitness levels this season and maybe the players will not be able to apply Klopp’s methods. After this season, I think that Klopp is right that he’ll at least be challenging for the Premier League title.

 

Top 4 Premier League Predictions by Footie Quiz

EPL Quiz

As per last year I am going to put my neck out and tell you who I believ will be the winners and the losers of the 2015/16 Premier League Season in the race for the top 4.

Winners – Man City

Given the ease with which Chelsea secured the title last year many may feel this a surprise prediction. But Chelsea had an almost perfect season last year out with top class additions in the form of Fabregas and Costa hitting the ground running and improving the level of an already very good team. I don’t believe the same is likely to happen again this year and with question marks remaining over Costa’s fitness I feel Chelsea will find this seasons EPL Quiz campaign much harder. City on the other hand in my opinion can only improve on last year’s performance. The addition of Sterling will have many critics but he is after all one of the best young players in Europe, this will the likely arrival of De Bruyne will improve City offensively. If Auergo stays fit and Silva continues to weave his magic I think the title will be heading to the Blue Camp.

Runners Up – Chelsea

Despite tmy reservations above Chelsea are still a very good side with a great deal of strength in depth. I see them finishing second and possibly getting into the semis of the Champions League – something that will distract them from their League campaign. Jose is too good a manager to bet against.

Third – Arsenal

On paper the Gunners (bar one exception up front) have a potentially title winning team. They proved in the Charity Shield this year and last that they can beat the league winners on their day. However doubts remain for me. Giroud is good but not in the same mould/level as Aguero or Costa. The midfield is still missing that ‘bite’ that Toure or Matic bring City and Chelsea respectively. Two excellent spells broken up with a dreadful run will see them third.

Fourth – Liverpool

In disclosure I am a Liverpool fan! My view is that as things stand Liverpool can only ever be better than last season and the signings brought in by Rodgers indicate as such. A lot will depend on two things:

1. If Rodgers still has a job after 10 games given how unkind the fixture list has been to Liverpool with regards to away games early on.

2. How Liverpool fare against United in the North West Derbies.

United have also strengthened but as things stand they only have one recognised striker in Rooney. An injury to him and what then? United were worthy of their fourth place last year but they also had no European football to contend with. I see this as a rocky challenging season for the Red Devils. The Premier League odds don’t agree with my views but whose would have foresaw Liverpool nearly winning the league in 2013/14? Odds eh?

The massive influx in TV money from the Sky deal will see all EPL teams improve in quality making the race for the Top 4 even harder than ever before. A couple of years ago who would have thought that Stoke City  would be able to sign former Bayern starlet Shaqiri? The EPL is the league to be in as it pays and as a result it will mean that those challenging for the top 4 not being able to take any team for granted.

Lets the games commence!

Football Rivalries: Liverpool and Man Utd

Liverpool v Man Utd

One of English footballs most notorious and passionate rivalries, unlike the others, is based not on location but on success. The annual fixtures between Liverpool and Manchester United are infused with a passion not derived from locality, but form the size of the trophy cabinet. Indeed, this rivalry is more of a modern development as, although major clubs compete fiercely with each other across the land, the fight to be crowned as the most successful club in England has fused this rivalry.

Post War Top Flight Finish comparison

Man U Liverpool Post War League Poitions

Anfield was home to some of the finest teams of the 1970s and 1980s and with total domination in the league and European success they were the undeniable kings of Europe. Keegan, Souness, Dalglish, Hughes……the names that are drip off the tongue. Whilst the Kop was awash in success and silverware. Down at Old Trafford United were having mixed fortunes. Still one of Englands biggest clubs success was thin on the ground, with an unexpected relegation and inconsistent form. Then the turn around came…

Just as Liverpool’s grip on the English game began to loosen, United started to emerge. Alex Ferguson’s appointment in 1986 was the key moment and despite the initial struggle Ferguson began to build a dynasty which would make United the most dominant team in the Premier League. Indeed, with the coming of the Premier League in 1992 United surpassed all records. League title after league title, cup after cup, Champions League success and a place at the very highest spot in world football. Liverpool fans had to watch has their crowns were taken, records were smashed and United were the team everyone talked about.

During the Premier League era Liverpool could not muster together the form or quality to win the division. Although always in and around the top 5 Liverpool never mounted a serious challenge until the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and United had it all their own way. Liverpool did have success in Europe and domestic trophies but the domination of United in the league, that Liverpool once dominated, was a bitter pill to swallow.

Liverpool fans clung onto the past, citing figures and statistics of how they were still England number 1 team. United fans teased and hunted records, making a big deal about every Liverpool record that was beaten.

This success rivalry led to the games between the pair being tinged with venom, passion and excitement. United, although involved in their own city derby, looked to the Liverpool game as the marker for their season. Liverpool looked to the United game for a chance to take the champions down a peg.

The hunt for success by two of the world’s biggest clubs will continue and the rivalry that goes with it will continue to entertain neutrals season after season.

Major Honours Comparison and Footie Quiz Scoring Matrix

LFC V MUFC Titles Success

So who do you think are the biggest and the most successful of the two?

[polldaddy poll=8595116]

Sacking Rodgers now is not the answer

Liverpool’s season has been a huge disappointment so far and the knives are out for boss Brendan Rodgers. But getting rid of the Anfield manager now would be premature.

There is no doubt Liverpool are in a poor place. Going out of the Champions League at the group stage and then losing to arch-rivals Manchester United 3-0 means there will be plenty of criticism.

Throw in the fact they are now down in 11th in the Premier League table, seven points adrift of the coveted top four, and the picture is bleak.

Rodgers has made some mistakes this season. Team selection has been baffling at times as he has clearly struggled to find his best XI amid the dual demands of domestic and European football. 

Signing Mario Balotelli appears set to be marked down as a huge gamble that has not paid off, while the rest of his summer signings – who do at least retain plenty of potential – have been sub-standard so far.

However, getting rid of last season’s Manager of the Year in December will not sort out Liverpool’s obvious problems. Sacking the popular, former Swansea boss would likely throw the Reds into more turmoil.

by  runtodaylight  Caption: Brendan Rodgers is a man under pressure

Rodgers oversaw a superb, unexpected title challenge last season and surely has credit in the bank, even if the latest views and opinions around football and at the likes of bluesq suggest moving back into the top four will be a very tough ask.

When Daniel Sturridge returns from injury in January, Rodgers’ options are bolstered significantly and if he can ride this current crisis then he can come out the other end smiling.

Rodgers has his problems and there are plenty of issues to resolve but, like he insisted himself recently, he remains the best man for the job at Anfield and deserves more respect than being shown the door before the Christmas lights are out.

It’s Sterling vs Gerrard in the clash of the midfielders! So has Raheem done enough to replace Stevie G as Liverpool’s most important player?

This season promises to be an extremely long one if you are a Liverpool fan. Our campaign has got off to an underwhelming start to say the least as the form that our team found themselves in just six months ago seems to be a distant memory from some glorious, much fabled past.

The departure of Luis Suarez is certainly a big reason behind that while the injuries that Daniel Sturridge has succumbed to only adds to our misery. In the absence of these two highly talented individuals, the responsibility of changing the outcome of matches has shifted to the shoulders of other players. Steven Gerrard is obviously one of them. The other name is Raheem Sterling.

SG

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The two of them are undoubtedly Liverpool’s best players at the moment. But the burning question that can be posed right now is this. Which one of the two are more important to Liverpool Football Club? Has our Captain Fantastic been finally replaced as Liverpool’s most influential player? 19 year old Sterling is currently tied with Steven Gerrard as the Reds’ top scorer with three goals apiece. The midfield pair are also on the summit of the assists chart separated by just one assist as Sterling has been credited with two while Gerrard has been credited with just the one.

As you may see, both these supremely talented individuals cannot be separated by something as limiting as numbers. In the minutes category, the story remains pretty much the same. The two Englishmen have played each and every minute of Liverpool’s two Champions League matches and they also have the same number of Premier League appearances this season after playing in all eight of the Reds’ matches this season.

Steven Gerrard however has been ever present as he lasted the whole 90 minutes in each and every single one of our League games. Sterling on the other hand played the whole game on five occasions after being taken off around the 80 minute mark twice. This is the first instance where we see clear daylight between the two. If Brendan Rodgers thought that Raheem Sterling was still needed on the pitch to keep matters in his team’s favour, he would definitely have kept the number 31 on.

That however, was not the case. It was in fact, Sterling who was taken off while our skipper was still left on because his presence was needed. This point that I just made, is the first reason that proves that it is still Steven Gerrard who is our most important player. The second reason is the timing and importance of the goals that these two scored.

SG 2

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Raheem Sterling opened the deadlock while the scores were still 0-0 with goals against Southampton and Tottenham. Liverpool went on to win 2-1 and 3-0 respectively. His third goal was merely a consolation in our thrashing at Upton Park.

Gerrard’s goals were slightly more dramatic as he scored our only goal against Everton from a superb free-kick while his injury time spot kick gave us three points against a valiant Ludogorets side. His third goal was another successfully converted spot kick against Spurs which gave us a 2-0 lead in the game that ultimately finished 3-0 in our club’s favour.

The point that I am trying to make here is that most of Steven Gerrard’s goals swung the result in our favour by either getting us a win or a draw. Sterling’s goals of course were important as well, there are no such things as unimportant goals. But what I mean to say is that Raheem’s goals did not have that big an outcome on the result.

Keeping these facts in mind, I would say that Steven Gerrard is still the biggest fish in the Liverpool pond at this point of time and his influence on the outcome of matches are still invaluable although Raheem Sterling is starting to have an immense impact on games and it should be a matter of time before he replaces Stevie G as our most important player.

 

NASH’S PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW WEEK 11

The opening half of the Premier League season has thrown a ton of tight match-ups and week 11 assures to be no different. BLOCKBUSTER ALERT: Table topper Arsenal would be facing current champions and an old time foe Manchester United on Sunday evening, before that match takes place, there are plenty of tricky contests to look forward to. Here is the full round ups of all the games taking place.

ASTON VILLA V CARDIFF CITY @ Villa Park

Cardiff are siting one point clear of Villa in the league table. Cardiff would be high on confidence after last week’s derby win against Swansea. For Villa, they have had a disappointing start to the season, when Benteke scores, they look a whole different team. Agbonlahor and Delph should be available for Villa to play on Saturday. I predict Villa to win it, but only so narrowly.

PREDICTION 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Cristian Benteke: Without him scoring Villa just look like an ordinary side, it is about time he scores and Cardiff should provide him an easier match-up, to get up and running.

CHELSEA V WEST BROM @ Stamford Bridge

The Apprentice V the Master, this could be an exciting encounter especially with Chelsea’s wobbling start to the season, West Brom themselves have made a poor start compared to last season. Chelsea would love to take the momentum from midweek’s 3-0 over Schalke and many would expect them to win, BUT Steve Clarke is a clever manager, West Brom can get a result here.

PREDICTION  2-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Eden Hazard: currently looks out of sorts with all the rotation going around him, but is an impressive player and should be the to keep an eye out on all season

Sessegnon: He has had an impressive start to his West Brom career and for West Brom to have any chance in getting a result, he would be the key.

CRYSTAL PALACE V EVERTON @ Selhurst Park

Everton have been consistently good this season and they are playing against Palace, a side who is literally struggling in the Premier League. It would be an easy day out for Everton and another clean sheet to add to the tally. I don’t see a better fortune for Palace in the near future, if they lose against Everton, it would be their seventh consecutive loss.

PREDICTION 0-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Lukaku: He is a power forward, already scored 5 goals and this couldn’t be an easier match-up for him to increase his tally. Watch out Palace defence.

LIVERPOOL V FULHAM @ Anfield

Liverpool just didn’t start their engines against Arsenal last week, they would be raring to go and get that set back off their backs against Fulham. A loss for Fulham potentially means the last game for Martin Jol. Fulham have just haven’t clicked as a team. Liverpool are too strong a team. Expect another drubbing at Anfield.

PREDICTION: 4-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Suarez/Sturridge: They can disregard the Arsenal game, for them to be a Champion team, they need to score against tough opponents, but against Arsenal, Liverpool were not working it out as a team. But now Fulham awaits and should be a tough competition in who will score more goals? Suarez? Or Sturridge?

SOUTHAMPTON V HULL CITY @ St. Mary’s Stadium

It is no fluke for both the teams, in where they sit in the Premier league table. Both teams look promising and play compact football. Southampton have the best defensive record in the premier league, allowing only four goals and the second best in Europe. Hull would find it difficult to crack the Saints defence. It would be a tough midfield battle between both teams but the Saints would eventually come out winning.

PREDICTION: 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Jay Rodriguez: He is still the player to watch out for this Premier League season, as the season progresses, he will do wonders. Look out for him.

NORWICH V WEST HAM UNITED @ Carrow Road

Norwich have always struggled defensively and very look bleak. The play West Ham a team who struggles to score (they don’t play a striker, you see). This equals the odds, but Norwich would wish to bounce back after last week’s 0-7 drubbing by City. Expect to be a dull game, with plenty of long balls and defensive errors and Norwich might sneak in a goal.

PREDICTION: 1-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Van Wolfswinkel: He is hopeful to make a return, if he plays Norwich chances of winning skyrockets. Norwich need his services up front.

TOTTENHAM V NEWCASTLE UNITED @ White Hart Lane

Spurs have had a decent start to the season, with all the new signings, it’s difficult to gel as a team so soon, still they are sitting 4th in the table. They can only get better. Newcastle had an impressive win over Chelsea last weekend and would be hoping to capitalise on that against the Spurs as well. Spurs are not a scoring team, so they would hold down the Magpies offensively as well as defensively. It would be a well fought encounter, ending in a draw.

PREDICTION: 1-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Loic Remy: he has been the signing of the season for Newcastle, without him the Magpies season would have been disaster, expect him to bother the Spurs defence all day.

SUNDERLAND V MANCHESTER CITY @ Stadium of Light

Well history suggests, City have always struggled at the Stadium of Light losing 1-0 for the last 3 years. Will this time be different? Well the Black Cats have found some resurgence, and winning against the Saints midweek in the Capital One Cup would have helped. City on the other hand, have been in prolific scoring form. And Negredo and Aguero are proving to be a deadly combo. This is to me is going to be an upset of the week, going with the history.

PREDICTION: 2-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Steven Fletcher: for Sunderland to do well, Fletcher needs to be scoring, he is the most experienced and a stable personality that can guide the whole team together.

Sergio Aguero: he has scored eight goals in the season and is looking in ominous form, any defensive lapse by the Black Cats and he’ll pounce upon it.

MANCHESTER UNITED V ARSENAL @ Old Trafford

Arsenal looking like The Invincibles, for which they were known for before. They are one of the best teams in form around the world. Playing world class football and on Sunday they travel to Old Trafford, the home of the current league champions; Manchester United. United have had a horrendous start to their season, Januzaj being the only saving grace. A win here for United and it can lift their whole season and David Moyes would be know that. But for United to beat Arsenal, they have to play like a Champion team that they are. Going for a United win, just to make the premier league and the league table more interesting.

PREDICTION: 3-2

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

RVP: Do I even have to mention him. He would be the focal point for both sides.

Ramsey: He is in brilliant form, is running high on confidence and he tends to find gold in whatever he does nowadays.

SWANSEA V STOKE CITY @ the Liberty Stadium

Swansea usually don’t play well on premier league weekends when they are playing in the Europa League midweek. They have been very inconsistent and the form of MICHU has had so much to do with it. Stoke on the other hand are just finding it tough to play a certain type of football, which they could stick to it. Scoring goals has been tough for Stoke, they have just scored seven times this season, out of which one goal came from the goalkeeper. Going by Swansea’s inconsistencies after playing the Europa league game midweek. A draw is on the cards.

PREDICTION: 0-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Michu: He plays a vital role in how his team performs as a whole, his current drought of goals, has affected Swansea as well. He is too important a player for Swansea.

 

 

Guest Blog: The battle for the first place

The eyes of most English soccer fans will be on Emirates Stadium this Saturday, when Arsenal host Liverpool.

Despite their loss at home at the beginning of the week against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, most of soccer driven Sportsbooks have Arsenal as favorite for this game. The Gunners are in first place of the Premier League with 22 points.

After a surprising defeat in week one at Emirates against Aston Villa , Arsenal has seven wins and one draw. They are the second best offense of the tournament with 20 goals scored, only behind Manchester City who has 21.

Frenchman Olivier Giroud and Wales’s Aaron Ramsey are the top scorers for the Gunners, with five goals each, but this Saturday will face a tough match against one of the best defences in the league. Liverpool have shipped only eight goals this season, but five have come away home.

The Reds are in third place with 20 points will try to steal the lead this weekend. English striker Daniel Sturridge is having a great year and is the top scorer of the Premier with eight goals.

Liverpool attack has within it one of the best forwards in the League, Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who has six goals in only four games. The problem for the Reds is that they rely too much on their stricker. Sturridge and Suarez have combined for 14 their 17 goals on the season.

This will be the first Liverpool game on the road against one of the top five teams. When they visited Manchester United on the third round of the Capital One Cup they lost 1-0 with one goal of Mexican striker Javier Hernandez.

Arsenal have only lost one of the last 16 home games against Liverpool, including FA Cup, Community Shield, Carling Cup and Champions. In 178 games between these two squads in the league, the Reds lead the stats  with 69 wins and 47 draws.

 

 

The Miracle of Istanbul, United’s Late Show and Gunners hit Reading for 7

Matthew Glazier of www.bettingpro.com looks at some of the best football comebacks of the past few years

Two English teams have produced a stirring comeback to win the Champions League in recent memory; while there have also been some fantastic performances in the Premier League which have seen losing teams rally to get a draw or better.

1) The Miracle of Istanbul

Liverpool were staring down the barrel in the 2005 Champions League final as Milan ran rings around Rafael Benitez’s team and stormed into a 3-0 lead, with Paolo Maldini scoring in the first minute before a late first-half brace from Hernan Crespo looked as though the cup had been won for the Rossoneri.

However, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had other ideas and his 54th minute goal set the Reds on the path to recovery. Amazingly, they were level on the hour mark thanks to goals from Smicer and Alonso, with Jerzy Dudek producing an amazing save to deny Andriy Shevchenko and the final went to penalties. Converted spot kicks from Hamann, Cisse and Smicer were enough to claim victory.

2) Sheringham and Solskjaer party like its 1999

Liverpool’s success came six years after another famous Champions League win for an English club, with Manchester United spending 84 minutes trailing to a Mario Basler effort until the most dramatic of finishes which saw the Red Devils score two injury-time goals.

In fairness, it was a poor performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s team at the Camp Nou and Bayern could have been out of sight before Teddy Sheringham looked as though he had sent the game into extra-time, although Solskjaer’s goal in the third minute of injury-time meant that UEFA quickly changed the ribbons on the trophy before it was held aloft by Peter Schmeichel.

3) Arsenal come from 4-0 down to win 7-5 at Reading

During the 2012/13 season, the Gunners and the Royals exchanged 24 goals in three matches although it was the League Cup clash at the Madejski Stadium which was the most dramatic by far, with Arsene Wenger’s team going 4-0 down after 37 minutes as Reading ran riot.

Just as Wenger was about to read the riot act at half-time, Theo Walcott’s 45th minute strike threw the visitors a lifeline and Olivier Giroud’s goal just after an hour created lots of tension among the home side. However, Laurent Koscielny’s 89th goal looked like being a mere consolation before Walcott poached a fourth a minute later to take the game to extra-time.

The momentum was with Arsenal and Chamakh put the visitors ahead for the first time although Pogrebnyak looked to be taking the tie to penalties when scoring for 5-5 before Walcott and Chamakh scored at the death.

Matthew Glazier is the Managing Editor of an award-winning sports, news and betting website.