Saturday 20th August
English Premier League
Everton v QPR
Everton’s start to the season was delayed due to the riots in London whilst QPR would have been wishing for such a circumstance as they crashed 4-0 at home to Bolton last Saturday. The two sides go head to head in the hunt for their first points of the campaign.
Goodison Park has probably been the quietest of grounds in the Premier League when it comes to transfer business in the close season. There has been virtually no movement either in or out of Everton since the end of last season. The most pleasing thing for manager Davie Moyes will have been that, to date, the club have managed to be keep hold of their star players including Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Mikel Arteta. There is, of course, still time between now and the close of the window but it’s doubtful that Everton would sell with so little time left to reinvest the funds gained from the sale in replacements. The Toffee’s finished seventh last term, just four points off their city neighbours Liverpool. A repeat of that finish would surely be considered a success for the fans, management and players. Heading into tomorrow’s game they will be hoping that they can get off to a better start than what they did last season. They had to wait until October, a run of seven games, before recording their first win. The slow start is what killed them in their quest for a European spot so Moyes and his players will be under no illusions as to how important getting that first win on the board really is.
QPR were torn apart by Bolton in the second half last Saturday despite starting the game quite brightly. A Gary Cahill goal just before the break knocked the stuffing out of last season’s Championship winners but they will have to learn quick that the Premier League is not only a tough league physically, it’s also extremely draining mentally as well. Since that defeat, the club have been bought over which, for Neil Warnock’s sake, will hopefully mean that more transfer funds become available to sign the players they desperately need. A bid for Scott Parker has been rejected by West Ham but it does signal some sort of intent on Rangers’ part. What Warnock will have to avoid is another trouncing tomorrow as it will not only drain the players of confidence and motivation, but also make it more difficult for he himself to avoid suffering as a consequence. With a new owner on board, it doesn’t take much for them to throw their weight about and start looking for their own people.
Everton are normally strong at home and will look to use that form from the off tomorrow. They have not lost at home this year which bodes well. However, they are notoriously slow starters and they usually perform better when they are underdogs. They will be expected to go for it from the first whistle against a newly promoted side and there is cause for thinking that it may well play into QPR’s hands. Warnock will be looking to hit on the counter attack and with a new air of optimism surrounding the Hoops, I can see this being an entertaining game.
Everton with Louis Saha and Tim Cahill will always be a threat whilst QPR have plenty of options going forward and were a tad unlucky to to score in the first half last Saturday. Two bets I fancy are both teams to score and for their to be more than two goals in the game.
Derby County v Doncaster Rovers
Derby have surprised many with their 100% start to the new season whilst Doncaster too have a 100% start to their season – unfortunately for them however, it’s 100% of losses as they have failed to grab a point from their first three matches.
Nigel Clough is now into his third season in charge of County and know’s that time is fast running out for him to convince the fans and the board that the can lead Derby back into the Premier League. They’re a massive club with an excellent stadium but have done nothing of note fore over four years. Their fans will be bouyed by the start to the season but will also be well aware that it is just the start, there is still over 40 games to go. Their most recent win, a 1-0 over Blackpool, is their most impressive to date as they too had a 100% record going into the match. They looked resolute and determined from the outset and come the end of the season, I can’t see too many teams going to Bloomfield Road and leaving with all three points. Craig Bryson got the winner in the second half of the season and his signing has brought energy and drive to what was a pedestrian midfield at times last season. Clough also has a lot more options upfront than he did last season with the signings of Chris McGuire and Nathan Tyson. As yet, both have yet to play any part but it makes the squad a lot stronger and once they do get fit and get games under their belt, they will score goals.
Donny have been likened to Arsenal because of their style of play but like Arsenal, they may need to sacrifice part of their philosophy and attempt to put a run of results together in order to prevent them from being cast adrift at the bottom of the table. Admittedly, Rovers have not had the easiest of openings to their league campaign as they have faced Brighton, West Ham and most recently Nottingham Forest. They have also not been hammered as they have lost by the odd goal in each of their matches. A 3-0 cup win over Tranmere also shows that they are capable of scoring goals which they have struggled to do in the league thus far, with just one goal for. Part of the reason for that is the absence of Billy Sharp who is injured. Their top scorer from last season has not played since the opening day of the season when he got stretchered off after opening the scoring earlier in the match. He is likely to be out for several months which deals a massive blow to Sean O’Drisscoll who has delved into the transfer market in an attempt to soften the blow of losing his star striker.
Derby were the last team that Doncaster beat in the division back in March. It means that the away side have won just once in 22 games, and the match was also their only away win in the last nine months. Could it be that they can record their second win in that time at the same ground? Possibly, but not for me. The vibes coming out of Derby County after their success in midweek were very positive and I feel than can continue their excellent start to the new season.
My Selection: Derby County to beat Doncaster Rovers
Best odds available: 5/6 available with Totesport
Sunday 21st August
West Ham v Leeds United
A match that wouldn’t look out of place in the Premier League takes place at Upton Park on Sunday as recently relegated West Ham look to continue their good form when Leeds, fresh from a resounding 4-1 over Hull, come to visit.
Sam Allardyce suffered a defeat in his first league match in charge when Cardiff scored in the last minute to win on the opening day of the season. Since then however, West Ham have looked far more accomplished and are getting the results that many expected of them before a ball was kicked. Still with Scott Parker onside, Allardyce is looking to galvanize a support who were disillusioned with many at the club, from the owners down to the players on the park. The only way he will succeed in doing that is by winning games. Tuesday’s emphatic win over Watford will have done no harm at all but consistency is the key. There’s no point in winning two matches on the road if they are unable to get maximum points in their home games. Key to that is Kevin Nolan who Allardyce worked with at Bolton, which is arguably the main reason why the former Newcastle midfielder dropped down a division when he left the Tyneside club. Nolan is forming a formidable relationship with Scott Parker, Jack Collison, Mark Noble and Matty Taylor in the West Ham midfield. There is a mix of everything and is the envy for all the other Championship managers.
Leeds lost their first two league games in a whimper before thrashing Hull on Tuesday night. It will have boosted everyone’s confidence and giving some belief back to the players who were so close to finishing in the play-off’s last season. Simon Grayson has refused to make wholesale changes during the summer instead trusting the players who have done so well for him and the club. Darren O’Dea is arguably their biggest transfer of the summer coming in on loan from Celtic. The defender has slotted straight into the first eleven and will make an impact at the club. Last weekends defeat to Middlesbrough will have hurt Grayson in more than one way. Not only did they lose the match, but certain players lost their discipline as well resulting in two yellow cards. This will be a worry for Grayson as Leeds were dogged with suspensions through all of last season. In order to have the best possible campaign this time around, Grayson and his players must keep their heads and concentrate on playing football.
It’s sure to be a fiery match as there is not much blood loss between the two sets of fans. Both are massive clubs and will be hoping that this season is just a stepping stone for better things in the near future. Leeds have been soundly beaten on their only away game to date when they lost 3-1 to Southampton, whilst as mentioned, West Ham lost their only home match thus far. Something has to give and with the form West Ham are in at the moment, I’m siding with Big Sam’s boys to do the business.
My Selection: West Ham to beat Leeds United
Best odds available: 3/4 available with William Hill
August 19th, 2011 / callum - Category: Championship Betting