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United aren’t the Real deal – Football bet of the week

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United aren’t the Real deal

Football bet of the week

Monday 25 February 2013



Every week, bookmaker and former Racing Post chief sports betting writer Mark Worwood gives out his best football bet.



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It is a happy coincidence that Real Madrid versus Manchester United not only represents the most interesting match of the week for football purists but also for football punters.

The Red Devils have got one hand on their 20th English title because their major rivals – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – have had disappointing seasons and summer signing Robin van Persie has saved their bacon several times.

After Manchester United came from behind three times to beat Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, a statistical nerd with way too much time on his hands built an alternative English Premier League table awarding three points to the teams that scored the first goal in a game, one point to both sides playing out goalless draws and zero points to teams that conceded the first goal in a match. The Red Devils were ranked 16th on 24 points, the same tally as Southampton and West Ham and only four points above the hypothetical relegation zone. For the record, Tottenham topped the ladder from Chelsea and West Bromwich.

Admittedly, Manchester United has relied on fewer comebacks to win and draw games since the turn of the year but the point is that the English Premier League table would look significantly different if opponents of the Red Devils had been able to hand on to their early leads and van Persie had not scored so many truly outstanding goals late in matches.

Manchester United is running away with what has been one of the worst English Premier League seasons in terms of top-end quality for years. If the Red Devils were competing in the Spanish La Liga against Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and others, it would outside the top three. Spain’s top division does not have the strength in depth of its English counterpart but its elite teams are a class apart.

The biggest obstacle standing between Manchester United and UEFA Champions League glory is its defence. The Red Devils have conceded more goals than most of the English Premier League’s other top-10 sides and their porous rearguard is sure to come under severe pressure versus Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Former Old Trafford forward Cristiano Ronaldo attracts most of the international headlines but Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil would walk into most of the world’s teams.

Manchester United has kept only nine clean sheets in its 37 games across all competitions this term, a statistic that will be music to the ears of everyone associated with Real Madrid but particularly its extrovert boss, Jose Mourinho.

Real Madrid should be shorter than the odds of around 7-10 that are available about it beating the Red Devils in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie about which everyone is talking. The Meringues are unbeaten in competitive home matches this season – 15 wins, four draws and no losses – and they have the benefit of an extra day’s rest, something about which Manchester United Alex Ferguson has been moaning. Fergie loves little more than a whinge.

While odds of around 7-10 about Real Madrid taking a lead to Old Trafford are more than acceptable, there is an exotic bet paying around 4-1 that appeals as well. One must think that the Red Devils will try their best to bag an away goal or two because attack is the best form of defence for them and, also, not scoring in Spain would almost certainly come back to haunt them in England. The Meringues are trading at odds of around 15-2 and 11-1 for 2-1 and 3-1 home victories respectively. Dutching those options equates to nearly 4-1.



Who do you think will win the UEFA Champions League game of the round? Is Manchester United really that good or is the English Premier League below par?



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