Against all odds upset on the cards in Argentina

San Lorenzo v Belgrano
Saturday March 4, 00:20 GMT

The Argentinian Primera Division season is back underway following a whole host of postponements. The fixture that catches our eye is San Lorenzo versus Belgrano as the hosts look a touch vulnerable at the prices.

They were last in action in a friendly game against Gimnasia La Plata on Saturday and they were beaten 1-0. Prior to that they had won just two of five friendlies and even when they were playing in the league at the end of 2016, Diego Aguirre’s men lost two of their last four in front of their own fans.

Belgrano really struggled in their opening 14 matches of the campaign as they took just 10 points to sit second bottom of the division. They performed much better in their friendlies however as they lost just one of eight and a fortnight ago they beat Olimpo 4-1.

In fairness to the visitors, despite their poor league position, they avoided defeat in over half of their matches and in their last five on the road, they won at Union Santa Fe and drew with both Atletico Tucuman and Gimnasia La Plata.

San Lorenzo are no certainty here, so with their odds trading at around the [1.82] mark, I have to make them my lay of the day.

Recommended Bet
Lay San Lorenzo v Belgrano @ [1.82]

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Through the card fontwell, Sunday February 26

14:00 – KILCREA VALE (2) has looked good in two chase starts to date, and certainly wasn’t disgraced when a beaten favourite at Market Rasen last time behind the talented Three Musketeers. He looks to have the best chance of winning on paper, but he did throw in a few bad runs over hurdles last season, and given we need to find the winner for Placepot purposes here, it is also worth including AS DE MEE (1), who isn’t blessed with large amounts of consistency himself, but has some smart form in the book (including a win in the Grand Sefton at Aintree in December).

14:30 – The Geegeez Geegee is still well treated on his hurdling form from 5 lb higher in the weights than when winning here last time, but the most interesting contender here could be ROTHMAN (2), who finished second to subsequent Cheltenham scorer Foxtail Hill at Kempton on his penultimate start, and takes a drop in grade here. A C&D winner when with Paul Nicholls, he looks worth chancing.

15:00 – L’AMI SERGE (6) is not one to trust fully given his three defeats so far this season where he has touched odds-on in running before being beaten on each occasion, but he is well clear of the field – along with Different Gravey, who has a bit to prove after an absence following his poor run over fences last time – here on ratings, and can finish in the first two.

15:30 – SIR ANTONY BROWNE (2) was an above-average bumper winner (won at Kempton and finished a good third under a penalty at Newbury) and overcame inexperience to make a successful start over hurdles at Wincanton earlier this month. He looks sure to progress with that effort under his belt, and although the form is yet to be tested, he pulled some 17 lengths clear of the third with the second, which bodes well enough for the strength of the race.

16:00 – MON PARRAIN (1) failed to meet market expectations on his Hunter debut last time, but this looks a much weaker contest, and he should be able to justify short odds second time around.

16:30 – GREYED A (5) had looked fairly progressive until disappointing at Ludlow last time, and though that is a little concerning here, he is worth another chance. LETEMGO (6) ended a long losing run last time over this C&D, and remains with handicapping scope from just 4 lb higher in the weights (won from 116 for former connections.

17:00 – An interesting bumper. Puppet Warrior sets the standard on his second at Warwick last time, but Sliding Doors should come on for his bumper debut (showed signs of inexperience at Musselburgh) and could be the one to chance.

Recommendation:

Win back ROTHMAN in the 14:30

Placepot permutation:

14:00 – 1, 2
14:30 – 2
15:00 – 6
15:30 – 2
16:00 – 1
16:30 – 5, 6

4 lines

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Brighton v Newcastle little to choose between Championship top two

Brighton v Newcastle
Tuesday 28th February, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 1

Brighton

Brighton clinically ended Reading’s outside hopes of automatic promotion on Saturday with a powerful 3-0 triumph at the Amex. Chris Hughton‘s charges pressed high out of possession whilst staying compact and disciplined in their own third to restrict their ball-playing visitors from picking a route through.

The Seasiders were potent on the counter-attack and goals from Sam Baldock, Jamie Murphy and Anthony Knockaert took Albion back to the top of the table. It means Brighton now have four players in double figures for goals the first time since promotion to the top-flight for the only time in their history in 1978/79.

The hosts expect left-back Seb Pocognoli to shake off an injury to start on Tuesday night with first-choice Gaetan Bong and Liam Rosenior both absent. Fikayo Tomori is on standby for the Seagulls.

Newcastle

Newcastle recovered from a woeful first-half display in which they gifted relegation-threatened Bristol City a two-goal lead to collect a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park on Saturday, surrendering their position at the summit of the Championship.

Rafa Benitez‘s boys improved immeasurably after the interval with Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie driving the Toon forward. However, Aleksandar Mitrovic’s lack of confidence and Ayoze Perez’s inconsistency, combined with Karl Darlow and Paul Dummett’s lack of communication at the back, frustrated fans.

The division’s top goalscorer, Dwight Gayle, trained at the weekend following a recurrence of hamstring trouble and a late decision will be made on his possible involvement. But midfielder Isaac Hayden is out for several weeks.

Match Odds

Brighton‘s only defeat in their last seven matches against Newcastle in all competitions (W4-D2-L1) came earlier this campaign at St. James’ Park but the Seagulls will be looking to stretch an impressive Tuesday evening record here.

The Seasiders [2.64] have suffered a sole reverse in their past 19 home league games on a Tuesday (W14-D4-L1) and come into this encounter having only suffered two defeats in 27 Championship outings (W19-D6-L2).

At the Amex, Hughton’s overseen a wonderful 34/63 (54%) win record since the start of last season, including 25 (40%) clean sheets. And lately, Brighton have recorded W20-D6-L1 on home turf with 10 of their past 13 home victories arriving ‘to nil’.

Albion have won all seven of their meetings at home against fellow top-nine sides this term and also boast a 100% record when opening the scoring – W18-D0-L0 – in league action.

The first goal could prove crucial as Newcastle [3.10] have W0-D1-L6 when conceding the first goal since relegation but the Magpies arrive unbeaten in eight and in possession of the league’s best away record (W11-D2-L3).

The visitors drew just one of their first 27 league games this term but have since been held to a point apiece in three of their last six Championship games, suggesting there’s value in the stalemate at [3.30].

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

Nine of Brighton’s past 13 league fixtures have featured at least three goals and with eight of their 11 duels against top-eight clubs this season also breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier, there’s value in [2.38] quotes on a repeat here.

Newcastle have followed suit in five of their most recent eight league outings with exactly half of their eight games against the top-eight also paying-out for Over 2.5 Goals punters.

However, only 6/16 (38%) of the Magpies’ matches on their travels overall have surpassed the two-goal line and collectively these two teams have conceded just 53 goals in 66 league fixtures – 0.80 goals per-game.

With so much at stake, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see Under 2.5 Goals quoted at a prohibitively short [1.71] so I’m happy to swerve the goals market despite the obvious case for a value selection on goals.

Recommended Bets
Back the draw @ [3.30]

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Timeform shortlist sandown, Saturday March 11

1.20 Matchbook Betting Exchange Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (3) 1m7f216y

Timeform Top Rated:
135 3. ZALVADOS Oliver Greenall Jake Greenall
132 5. DEAUVILLE CRYSTAL Nigel Hawke Ciaran Gethings (3)
131 8. PENSION MADNESS Mark Usher Mr Thomas Greatrex (7)

Analyst’s Verdict:
Zalvados has improved with every start over hurdles so far, and looks leniently treated now handicapping, so can deservedly open his account. Hygrove Percy has already won 3 times this season but could have more to offer, while Deauville Crystal is another handicap debutante to consider.

1.50 European Breeders’ Fund Matchbook VIP ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3) (1) 2m3f173y

Timeform Top Rated:
143p 11. MAN FROM MARS Nick Williams Lizzie Kelly (3)
142p 15. LITHIC Jonjo O’Neill Aidan Coleman
141p 3. FULL IRISH Emma Lavelle Daryl Jacob

Analyst’s Verdict:
A red-hot handicap that can go to Minella Awards, who ran a blinder in a Plumpton contest on his return that has worked out really well. He likely has a lot more to offer now handicapping. Last week’s easy Huntingdon winner Lithic has to be respected under a penalty, while Ramses de Teillee, Cash Again and Full Irish are just a number of others who make appeal.

2.25 Better Odds With Matchbook Handicap Chase (3) 3m37y

Timeform Top Rated:
148+ 8. SHANROE SANTOS Lucy Wadham Leighton Aspell
147x 6. UPSWING Jonjo O’Neill Aidan Coleman
144 2. FOURTH ACT Colin Tizzard Paddy Brennan

Analyst’s Verdict:
Shanroe Santos proved he is still improving when winning in tenacious fashion at Warwick a fortnight ago, and a 4 lb rise may underestimate this relatively lightly-raced 8-y-o. Upswing isn’t the easiest to catch right, but he’s slipped to an appealing mark now, and showed signs of a revival at Kempton last time, so is feared most ahead of last-time-out winner Willoughby Hedge.

3.00 Matchbook Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (1) 1m7f216y

Timeform Top Rated:
151 1. FIXE LE KAP Nicky Henderson Daryl Jacob
150p 13. NOT ANOTHER MUDDLE Gary Moore Jamie Moore
149+ 5. GASSIN GOLF Kerry Lee Mr Richard Patrick (7)

Analyst’s Verdict:
Hard to call this a vintage Imperial, but Fixe Le Kap has the potential to be a fair bit better than his current mark and is highly unlikely to lack for fitness on return from a year off given his connections. Chieftain’s Choice and William H Bonney can boast solid recent winning handicap form, while Max Do Brazil needs monitoring closely in the betting.

3.35 EBF Stallions/TBA Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat (Listed) (1) 1m7f216y

Timeform Top Rated:
125p 7. PETTICOAT TAILS Warren Greatrex Gavin Sheehan
124 5. MARTELLO PARK Ms Margaret Mullins Daniel Mullins
123p 8. REDHOTFILLYPEPPERS W. P. Mullins Mr D. H. Dunsdon

Analyst’s Verdict:
Willie Mullins won this in 2015 and can do so again with Redhotfillypeppers, who readily came clear at Punchestown and looks an exciting prospect. Cap Soleil and Petticoat Tails won’t give up their unbeaten records easily.

4.10 Matchbook Betting Podcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (3) 2½m10y

Timeform Top Rated:
144 1. VICENZO MIO Paul Nicholls Sam Twiston-Davies
141 4. THE FRESH PRINCE Oliver Sherwood Leighton Aspell
140 5. MAXANISI Evan Williams Adam Wedge

Analyst’s Verdict:
It’s possible all was not well with The Fresh Prince given how tamely he checked out at Wincanton last month, and he’s better judged on the promise of his previous Uttoxeter success in this sphere. Vicenzo Mio stopped rather tamely himself at Kelso but is feared on just his second try over fences, whilst Willie Boy deserves a second look also.

4.45 Matchbook Casino Handicap Chase (Qualifier) (3) 2½m10y

Timeform Top Rated:
144 2. ALCALA Paul Nicholls Sam Twiston-Davies
143 3. GORES ISLAND Gary Moore William Clarke (10)
141 1. TWENTY EIGHT GUNS Michael Scudamore Tom Scudamore

Analyst’s Verdict:
Gores Island was cruelly denied a much-deserved victory at Kempton 2 weeks ago when crashing out at the final fence. A sound jumper in the main, Gary Moore’s charge may well gain compensation off the same mark here. The progressive Twenty Eight Guns rates the main danger, albeit cases can also be made for Alcala, Dance Floor King and last year’s winner Morning Reggie.

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Saint-Etienne v Manchester United les verts to go down swinging

Saint Etienne v Manchester United
Wednesday 21 February, 17:00
Live on BT Sport

Saint Etienne

Something that was perhaps obscured by the Pogba v Pogba coverage last week (Saint Etienne’s Florentin took on his shy and retiring brother Paul) was that the trip to Old Trafford was a huge occasion for Saint Etienne. Les Verts haven’t won a league title since 1981, and the clash with Manchester United was an echo of the famous clashes with Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the 1970s.

Sadly from ASSE’s point of view, the romance of the occasion was swept away by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede was a scourge of Saint Etienne in his days as a PSG player (the Opta stats show he has now scored 17 career goals against them), and his hat-trick gave United a 3-0 win that almost certainly bars Christophe Galtier’s men from progress into the last 16.

However, the French side did make chances at Old Trafford, and a touch more composure in front of goal may well have yielded a better result. It’s also worth noting that the vociferous backing ASSE receive from their fans at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard tends to be a big help – Saint Etienne have only lost two of their last 19 home matches in all competitions, and they are chasing a fourth consecutive home victory after beating Angers, Lyon and Lorient.

Opta tell us that Saint Etienne haven’t overturned a three-goal first-leg deficit since the 1974-75 season, and I don’t think anyone really believes they’ll manage it here, but they will be determined to go down fighting. Galtier insists he will respect the competition and the club’s supporters, so I expect him to pick a strong team.

Manchester United

The United juggernaut continues to rumble forth, clearing the path to success on multiple fronts. Having already bagged the Community Shield (stop sneering at the back), Jose Mourinho’s side could add the League Cup trophy if they beat Southampton on Sunday at Wembley.

The Red Devils are the current [4.6] favourites to win the Europa League, and I think that’s actually a generous price. The market says Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk and Spurs are the greatest threats to United’s success, and that seems about right to me, with Schalke also a awkward team to face. This is where we stick the flag in the sand – I think Mourinho is determined to win this trophy, and the Champions League spot that comes with it. I’ll back him to win it at this stage.

Mourinho has built up significant momentum by successfully rotating his squad. I’ve said before on this website that I believe United have one of the strongest squads in Europe, and in terms of pure depth, I think they have the deepest roster in England. United have lost just two of their last 27 games, and they have won their last four matches, including the weekend’s comeback win at Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup.

Mourinho says Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are unlikely to feature because of injury, and he may rest key players ahead of Sunday’s Wembley showdown.

Match Odds

United are the favourites to win at [2.3], but that seems a touch short given Saint Etienne’s strong home form and the ferocious support they’ll receive from their supporters. Mourinho’s men have struggled on the road in this competition. They lost at Fenerbahce and Feyenoord, but did win 2-0 at Zorya, but the hosts had been eliminated by then. If you stretch back into last season, United have lost four of their last five away games in the UEL.

You could back Home or Draw on the Double Chance market at [1.76], which gives you a winner if the hosts win or the game ends in stalemate.

Both Teams To Score

I quite fancy both team to find the net in this one. United almost always score on the road, and you have to go back to October’s 4-0 hammering at Chelsea for the last time they drew a blank on their travels. Defensively they looked shaky against Les Verts last week, and in their last 12 away games they have only kept four clean sheets.

Saint Etienne have to try to at least put on a show, and although they may keep things tight initially, I think they’ll push for goals at some stage. They have held title-chasing Monaco and PSG to 1-1 draws this season, and a similar result against storied opposition would do us just fine.

Recommended Bets
Back Both Teams To Score at [1.93]
Back Manchester United to win the Europa League at [4.6]

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