Monday, 28 January 2013

Who needs the Super Bowl more?

In one week’s time the sporting world descends on Louisiana as San Francisco take on Baltimore in one of the most exciting Super Bowl match-ups in years. But who needs the win more?

The Ravens have only made the Super Bowl once in their history, where they beat New York Giants 34-7 in 2000. Over the last 13 years they have come close to a return to the big time but fallen in the AFC Championship twice. Their fans are right behind them and would love a second Super Bowl, especially in legendary linebacker Ray Lewis’ last season in the game.

Sometimes regular-season form counts for nothing and Baltimore – who lost four of the last five games before the playoffs – picked up a huge 24-9 win over the Colts to earn a Divisional match with Denver before overturning NFL betting news favourites Indianapolis on their own turf.

The 49ers’ winless streak goes even further back, to a 1994 victory against the Chargers. Fans have suffered badly over the last decade – recording a 2-14 record in 2004 – but under Jim Harbaugh are a completely different team.

They say you need to taste defeat before you can earn success and San Francisco, who lost 20-17 to the Giants in overtime at last season’s NFC Championship game, will want to get the job done this time around.

They came back from 17-0 down to beat Atlanta in the NFC Championship game: quarterback Colin Kaepernick proving a formidable leader in their offence to take the game 28-24.

Heading into the Super Bowl, we have one team buoyed by wins and full of confidence against a side that has shown quality and poise all season – punters who bet on NFL are still unsure who to back. Both teams have great weights of expectation on their shoulders and could make history on 3 February, where one will prove they want it just that little bit more.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Physical power will stop Ferrer winning Grand Slam

David Ferrer’s hopes of ever winning a Grand Slam title appear to be waning after Novak Djokovic proved once again that power is the key difference between good players and great ones in their Australian Open semi-final clash on Thursday.

Ferrer headed into the tie in good form after defeating Marcos Baghdatis and 10th seed Nicolas Almagro in earlier rounds. Seeded fourth in Melbourne, Ferrer was expected to reach the semis and didn’t disappoint – proving he is the best of a league just below the ATP’s elite band.

However, he was a vast outsider in the Tennis odds   and up against the physical monster that is Djokovic the world number five had no chance, losing 6-2 6-2 6-1 in just one hour and 29 minutes. It was a magnificent display of robust tennis from Djokovic, who powered down a number of love service games and hit numerous returns with venom right under Ferrer’s feet.
The Spaniard simply couldn’t handle Djokovic’s strength, consistency and sting in his forehands, the ball back in Ferrer’s court almost before he finished his follow-through.

Unfortunately, this is the level Ferrer must reach if he is ever going to win a tennis Grand Slam and at 30 years of age his body is not going to get stronger over time. His build and playing style is more like Roger Federer – graceful, angled and poised – but unlike Federer he doesn’t posses that real quality in his shot selection and cannot match the physicality of Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal when required.

That physicality is why Federer has won so many Grand Slams while appearing the silky smooth player we all admire. Sadly Ferrer will never combine strength with technique enough to take down two powerful opponents in a Grand Slam semi and final, meaning his dreams for a maiden major will probably never be realised.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Hearn - Snooker not reliant on the Rocket

Snooker chief Barry Hearn has once again insisted the sport isn’t reliant on Ronnie O’Sullivan, but maintained the former world number one is more than welcome to defend his title at the World Championships if the Rocket decides to return for the season’s showpiece tournament.

Speaking after world number one Mark Selby clinched his third snooker Masters betting title in six years with a 10-6 victory against Neil Robertson, Hearn insisted O’Sullivan would need to make a decision by the end of February whether or not he would defend his title at the Crucible in April.

"He still has a choice of entering the World Championships. The closing date is the end of February; he's got to make a decision before then," revealed Hearn.

But Hearn was adamant the sport hadn’t lost any of its appeal by O’Sullivan’s continued absence.

"If he decides to he's welcome with open arms, because he adds so much. And if he doesn't, I just want to remind him that he wasn't in the Masters, we sold more tickets and we got bigger TV ratings.”

O’Sullivan was a notable member of the audience during the semi-finals of the Betfair Masters, fuelling the growing rumours that the Snooker betting favourite could be getting the taste back for the sport he has often lost interest in.

While there is no doubt that snooker is in a good place at the moment, having O’Sullivan at the World Championships would make it one of the most interesting tournaments in recent history.

Whether or not that would lead to the former world number one returning to the game full-time would be a question that could wait until the end of the tournament. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Rookie James Unfazed by Play-off Pressure

San Francisco 49ers running back, LaMichael James, has insisted to the NFL betting news that he is not feeling the pressure of playing in postseason campaign. The rookie only broke into the team after 12 games of the regular season but could now play a key role as the 49ers look to go all the way in their Super Bowl run.

The 23-year old boasts a stellar college pedigree, holding the record of rushing yards and touchdowns for Oregon, including a starring role in last year’s Rose Bowl triumph. Despite a slow start to his NFL career, James has impressed since making his debut following Kendall Hunter’s season-ending injury, finishing the regular season with 125 yards at an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

The running back made his postseason debut during the 49ers comprehensive 45-31 victory against Green Bay Packers, finishing with three carries for 21 yards, a 7-yard reception and a 23-yard kick-off return in his playoff debut Saturday night.

While making it clear to fans who bet on NFL he was delighted to have the chance of being in this position in his rookie season, the youngster was adamant that he would not be overawed by the occasion. After playing in big games for Oregon, James admitted he used that experience when it came to coping with the pressure of running out against the Atlanta Falcons.

"I don't think it's too much different than playing in BCS games at Oregon. That helped me out. It's second nature to me. No other game is bigger than the first one or the second one, you got to go out there and you got to compete. That’s how I’m going to treat this game,” said James.

“I had a lot to learn and I’m still learning. I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in. I say thanks to my team-mates and coaches for guiding me and helping me out thus far.”

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Ace avoids opening round blow

Judd Trump kept his hopes alive in this year’s Betfair Snooker  Masters by edging Barry Hawkins 6-5 in the first round of the competition after coming from 3-5 behind in the match.

The Ace reached the semi-final of this tournament 12 months ago before going out to the defending champion Neil Robertson.
He got his campaign off to a good start against Hawkins after establishing a 3-2 advantage just after the mid-session interval. However, the Hawk won the next three frames of the match to move just one away from victory.
The world number 17 had more than one opportunity to wrap up the match and advnace into the quarter-final but he could not take it. Trump dug in to win the final three frames and secure a 6-5 success.
First a break of 105 reduced his arrears to just two. He then managed to edge 10th set which went all the way down to the blue, before winning the final frame in one visit.
It was a much needed victory for the number two seed after going out in the opening round of the UK Championship last month to Mark Joyce. He will now face Graeme Dott in the last eight after the 2006 world champion defeated Stephen Maguire also in a final frame decider at the Alexander Palace, with the The Masters Odds suggesting he should progress.
Despite scoring better with breaks of 110 and 131, Maguire was unable to see off his fellow Scottish compatriot despite holding a 3-2 lead.
The final frame of the match was tense but Dott held his nerve and used all his years of experience to come through.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Froch ready for revenge

Carl Froch admits that he is ‘gunning for revenge’ after a re-match with Mikkel Kessler was confirmed.
Kessler’s points victory over Nottingham-born Froch in Denmark two years ago was his first career loss and Froch has been desperate to re-dress the balance ever since.
Both parties have appeared willing to strike a deal, but a deadline of Tuesday was set before Adonis Stevenson automatically became a mandatory challenger to Froch’s IBF crown.
However, that outcome was avoided when Froch – along with promoter Barry Hearn – confirmed an agreement has been reached for a re-match, to be held in the UK.
The 35-year-old admitted he could not wait to finally get back into the ring with Kessler again and promised a mouth-watering clash for boxing betting fans.
"First and foremost, I'm really pleased the fight has finally been arranged," said Froch. "I feared that Kessler had second thoughts about his promise - but the man has come good on his word.
"Our first fight was pure warfare. We went at each other for every minute of every round and the rematch promises to be even more fiercely contested.
"I seriously wish I was ringside myself for this fight, because I'm gunning for revenge at all costs and the fight fans are in for a real treat.”
Though the fighting talk will no doubt continue until the fight, Froch was also keen to praise his opponent, adding:
"He is a class act both inside and outside the ropes. We are cut from the same cloth and we will be friends yet again after the fight.”
For more information on boxing betting markets or the markets for a variety of other sports, including the Premier League darts, log-on to: 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Defending champion scrapes through

Neil Robertson had to come from 3-5 down to beat Ding Junhui 6-5 in his first round tie of this year’s Masters at the Alexandra Palace.
The Australian was in real trouble when the 2011 winner won the eighth frame to move to just one away from knocking out the reigning champion on day one.
Despite taking a 2-0 lead, Robertson needed to win the last three frames of the match deny Ding the opportunity to progress. The Thunder from Down Under seemed to find his best snooker when he needed it the most with breaks of 100, 62 and 90 to advance into the second round.
It was a disappointing blow for the Chinese player who played his part in top quality match, with the Masters odds pre-game suggesting he would go far in the tournament. Ding hit breaks of 103 and 127 to prove how dangerous he was in the break building. However, it now means that he has not been beyond the second round of any of the five premier tournaments so far this season.
The defending champion and Betfair snooker favourite will now face Mark Allen on Thursday after the Northern Irishman came through his clash with Mark Davis 6-2.
Those two players were locked at 2-2 at the mid-session interval, with a 136 coming from Allen in the opening frame. However, the Pistol didn’t give Davis a chance after the break winning four consecutive frames for a comprehensive victory.
It’s not been the best of season so far for the man from Antrim Town with just a quarter-final appearance at the International Championship to show for it. He has only once reached the last four in this competition when he was defeated in the semi-final by Marco Fu in 2011.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Robertson bids for title defence

Neil Robertson goes into the 2013 Betfair Masters as the defending champion after winning the competition 12 months ago, beating Shaun Murphy in the final 10-6.
The Australian added the trophy for the invitational only event for top 16 players to the World Championship he won in 2010. He now just needs the UK Championship to join a handful of players to have won the sport’s top three premier tournaments.
The Thunder from Down Under, favourite in the snooker betting,  will kick his defence off against Ding Junhui in the opening round tie on Sunday afternoon. His Chinese opponent is also a previous winner of the Masters after doing so in 2011 in an all Asian final against Marco Fu where he ran out a 10-4 winner.
Ding has not had the best of season so far after failing to go beyond the second round of a tournament. Robertson, on the other hand, reached the final of the International Championship, was down to the last four of the Premier League and went out in the quarter-final to the eventual winner Mark Selby in York for the UK Championship.
The 2012 winner goes into this year’s tournament as the number on seed and would meet Judd Trump in the final if the top two seeds make it safely through their respective halves. That would be a repeat of their clash in the semi-final in last year’s competition.
Robertson is currently down to number five in the world rankings but held the number one spot for large parts of 2010 and 2011 and is still well fancied in the snooker Masters
odds. He is bidding for his 15th tournament success since turning professional in 1998. He is the only Australian to have won the Masters and if he defends his crown he will be the first man to do so since Paul Hunter in 2002.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Six Nations preview - Ireland

With other home nations suffering disappointing results since the 2012 Six Nations, Ireland’s difficult year has been somewhat overlooked. They did not gain a win – a non-capped 53-0 win over Fiji apart – until easing past Argentina last month, with some chastening southern hemisphere experiences eroding confidence.

The nadir of a 3-0 June defeat in New Zealand was a record 60-0 reverse that made the preceding three-point defeat a distant memory. A strong 2013 Six Nations campaign seemed unlikely at that point, with the team’s defensive problems seemingly unsolved.
Ireland were the top points and try scorers in this year’s tournament, so it is easy to see where their problems laid. A limp effort in the breakdown in the All Blacks hammering at Hamilton suggested Declan Kidney and his coaching team had plenty of work to do with the defence and there were encouraging signs in the 16-12 defeat by South Africa last month.
Despite a brave rearguard action, a nine-point lead could not be protected, but with key men Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Rory Best absent through injury, some optimism was at least rediscovered.
Debutants David Kilcoyne, Iain Henderson and New Zealand-born Michael Bent – a controversial selection – all made a decent impression. O’Connell and Stephen Ferris are unlikely to be fit for the tournament opener against Wales, so the new faces need to integrate quickly.
Ireland and Wales have had some memorable Six Nations clashes in recent years and that curtain-raiser could set the victor on the road to a title-challenging campaign. The loser will be left wondering when their slump will end.
Don’t forget to head over to Betfair for all the latest Rugby Betting  news, odds, expert opinion and special offers, including your Betfair bonus