Thursday, September 19, 2013

Week 5: Head vs Heart

by Rick Nash

I was really, really happy with this week's picks...until I saw the potential winnings. €5 on these tips can earn you a whopping €324. Given my track record of outsmarting the bookies this season, that doesn't seem likely before you even look at the merits of each tip.

But this website lives for the long odds, so let's give it a whirl nonetheless. At worst, there's some well researched, great value, individual tips to behold here. At best, you feel really confident, put €100 on these bets and win €6,480. But please don't do that. If you're going to waste €100, I'd much rather you installed it directly into my bank account so I can turn a profit on this blog one way or another.

This week, a look at Saturday's UFC main event before we go toe-to-toe with the heavyweight clashes to come on this wonderful sporting Sunday ahead.

This Week's Picks

(All odds courtesy of Paddy Power)

Liverpool half-time/full-time vs. Southampton @ 5/4

Liverpool are a historically tricky team to gamble on (which is a polite way of saying that they're cunts): just when you think they're safe to tip for either glory or doom, they go and pull the rug from underneath you. That said, they have been leading at half-time and full-time in their past three home league games and you could chalk their 2-2 draw with Swansea (where Jonjo Shelvey repeatedly forgot which team he was playing for) off as a blip of sorts, while Southampton aren't up to much as they still seem to be struggling to figure out their best XI for 2013/14.

Jon Jones/Alexander Gustafsson: over 2.5 rounds @ evens

There's literally zero value to be found in betting on a Jon Jones victory, which is the only way I see this fight ending. Gustafsson is one of those remarkably talented fighters who would hold championship gold...were he not in the weight class and era of a truly transcendent fighter. There's a reason Dana White has been stalling on this fight for so long, even when it became painfully apparent that the Swede was the only legit contender left in the division. They've been trying to buy him time to mount a true challenge, but unfortunately time has run out. To paraphrase Shayna Bazler in last week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter, "He's not the guy." (Though how well did that quote work out for poor Shayna in the end?)

Jones, meanwhile, has his sights firmly set on the GOAT tag recently vacated by an over-confident Anderson Silva. He seems to be growing into his role as he gets older, caring less about if MMA fans think he's sound or not, and more on beating the fuck into people whether his toe is currently fully attached to his foot or not. That's a scary prospect for future opponents.

Having said that, Jones is a Greg Jackson protege and, as such, plays it smart. He spends his first rounds scouting opponents and picking apart their weaknesses. And this time there isn't a gulf in class as there has been with his who's who of legendary opponents he's downed previously. Gustafsson is both relevant and dangerous, so while I wouldn't go as far as to say Jones will fight this GSP style and look to earn a dominant points victory (as you can never count out a finish with a mind as original and creative as his), I'm predicting that if he does finish, he'll take his time in doing so and start really showing his class once the fight hits the championship rounds.

Dublin vs. Mayo: Diarmuid Connolly top scorer @ 3/1 

This All-Ireland Final not only has the potential to be the most breathtaking of our generation, it's going to be a real heartbreaker one way or another. It's a perfect final: both sides have a legitimate claim to being called the best side in the country, but only one can.

Mayo have added grit from last season's final loss, taken that frustration to the training field and come back able to not only annihilate the likes of Galway and Donegal, but grind out tight games like the one against Tyrone. While the Donegal game may appear more eye-catching on scoreline alone, to me it's the Tyrone victory that marks their card as All-Ireland winning material. It shows the potent combination of resourcefulness, skill and bit of luck that any great champions in any sport you can think of also possessed.

In terms of simple quality and squad unity, though, Dublin can't be matched. Their Man Utd-style fitness in playing each game like a marathon, not a sprint, has been discussed here recently and they've almost gone the opposite route to Mayo in terms of how they've won their games en route to Croker: grinding out the early wins before turning on the style in the semis in perhaps the greatest match of the 21st century.

If this is a sports movie, Mayo win. Dublin represent their insurmountable odds, boasting a better side, a richer history, star players and one mountain too high for a side that just deserve it. They just do. And, despite being a Dub who'll cheer on my county loudly on Sunday, neither permutation here is 100% painless. If Mayo win, the true sports fan in me who appreciates core sporting values more than geographical loyalties will be happy for them in spite of Dublin's loss. If Dublin win, Mayo's search for Sam goes on as even their setup begin to wonder if it's just not meant to be. That's fucking cruel, even the most ardent of Dubs will have to admit. But since when do sports follow straightforward narrative like that? In fact, it's their tendency to go the other way, just because, that makes us love them.

So, with all of the above reasons playing back-and-forth in my mind, I've bottled it and bet on Diarmuid Connolly to be the game's top scorer at sweet odds for an acca. If you fancy a side bet on this game, Paddy Power are giving money away offering 6/5 on Bernard Brogan to score over 4.5 points (which I would've gone with had they made it available to combine with other bets).

As for a winner? Pfft, your guess is as good as mine. And while I'll be cheering on the Dubs, to be honest I don't want any further stakes to concern myself with in this match. I just want to sit back and appreciate what looks set to be a true sporting masterpiece.

Man City/Man Utd: Wayne Rooney anytime goalscorer @ 13/5

Our final tip concerns another match I'm bottling it on, the Manchester derby which completes the tradition of Sky pitting ridiculously tantalising games against the All-Ireland Final. If there was one All-Ireland Final that'd I'd consider missing a chunk of United/City for, it'd be Dublin/Mayo. And, crucially, if there was one match that I'd be tempted to miss Dublin/Mayo for, it's United/City. Fortunately, modern technology means that I'm not left with a Dublin sport fan's equivalent of Sophie's Choice.

People need to seriously ease up on David Moyes, United will be fine. As a fan, I'm mentally preparing myself for not winning any silverware this season (or worse, just winning the League Cup), but that's okay. We've won more than enough to last us a lifetime. Not that an entire lifetime without another league or Champion's League would be okay, but I can live with a dry season if it helps us over what was always going to be a huge transition away from Alex Ferguson's reign. After Wednesday's 4-2 win against Leverkusen, I can safely say that now I feel we're headed in that direction. Fellaini looks to be worth every single penny (including the £4.5m we didn't need to pay) on the basis of that performance, adding the composure and simultaneous attacking creativity we've lacked in midfield since Scholesy was in his prime. RVP continues to do exactly what we need him to do, our back line has lapses but none too costly thus far, and even Rooney looks happy with the system now. The latter alone is enough to assure me that what Moyes is doing is working.

City, meanwhile, are an odd one. They're managed by Manuel Pellegrini, so you have to imagine that they'll come good fairly quickly with the quality throughout their lineup. It would be so them if it were all to come together in a humiliating win to rock United just as we were getting our shit together. And the stats bare this theory out: City are undefeated in 36 of their past 38 league games at home. All of their struggles so far this season have come away from home, in the Etihad they've been assured and flowing, easing to 4-0 and 2-0 defeats of Newcastle and Hull respectively.

Weighing it up, a 0-0 draw seems the most likely result given the evidence at our disposal: both sides keep this fleeting bit of momentum ticking over, City keep a clean sheet at home, Moyes' side don't give the game away and show they're actually still a formidable outfit against top opposition just yet, keeping people guessing in a way that would do Ferguson proud. But when has a Manchester derby ever been decided on paper? It's always based on passion, organisation, if either side can nick an early goal then who gets more moments of inspiration in a captivating 90 minutes that fly by quicker than a new Breaking Bad episode.

In terms of betting, like the All-Ireland my heart won't be able to take any further stakes in the result of this game, so I'm going with Wayne Rooney continuing this rich return to form against a side he absolutely loves to scores against traditionally.

Rick Nash is a former pro-wrestler who currently DJs for hire, makes piss-poor sports bets and has a community radio show. Altogether, he's a real bum, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you thought this piece was in any way insightful or entertaining. But still, follow him on Twitter and stuff.

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