The Top Fantasy Picks for Cheltenham Festival

Handicap chase
Source: Flickr

With the big news that Irish trainer Willie Mullins has pulled both Faugheen and Min out of Cheltenham this year, many a punter will have to rethink their bets. There were hopes that Faugheen could reclaim his Stan James Champion Hurdle crown and Min was expected to run in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy but injuries have ruled both horses out of the festival.

There’s still a few weeks to go but, it’s probably about time to take a look at what should be your top fantasy picks for the meet’s five most valuable races.

Ryanair Chase – £300,000

The Ryanair Chase is a two-mile, five furlongs steeplechase and this year it looks like the Willie Mullins’ trained Un De Sceaux is the hot favourite. Un De Sceaux also holds an entry for the Champion Chase, but in that race, he will face much stronger competition.

The other entrants in the Ryanair Chase, on the other hand, are quite a distance behind and we fully expect him to win this race comfortably.

Our tip – Un De Sceaux

Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle – £300,000

The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle is a two-mile, seven furlongs and 213 yards hurdle race that many consider one of the most prestigious of its kind in the racing calendar. While Unowhatimeanharry is the clear favourite, we’re of a mind that Ballyoptic will beat him. This horse clearly has plenty of stamina having won four of his eight hurdle races, yet his two recent falls seemed to affect his confidence a little.

Having said that, this horse has shown that he can compete against Unowhatimeanharry and although he finished four and a half lengths behind him in the Long Walk Hurdle, we fancy that he could spring a surprise at Cheltenham.

Our tip – Ballyoptic

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – £350,000

This two-mile steeplechase is the highlight of day two at the festival and last year’s race gave us an epic finale as Sprinter Sacre produced a stirring comeback to reclaim his crown. There’s no place for the now retired Sprinter Sacre this year, so all eyes will turn to Willie Mullins’ Douvan.

Unbeaten in 13 starts, Douvan is the clear favourite especially considering that the second favourite Fox Norton doesn’t seem to have what it takes. In their two previous meetings, Fox Norton hasn’t managed to get within eleven lengths of him.

Our tip – Douvan

Stan James Champion Hurdle – £400,000

Run over two miles, the Champion Hurdle was to be Faugheen’s chance to reclaim his crown, but with a stress fracture ruling him out of the Festival it’s time to change our bets. Yanworth is looking good of late and so far has won eight of his 11 career starts.

This race requires stamina and Yanworth’s win on Boxing Day shows that he’s got it in spades but can he overcome race favourite Annie Power? Last year’s winner will be tough to beat, but with Faugheen out of the race, it could be Yanworth’s time.

Our tip – Yanworth

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup – £575,000

And so we come to the biggest race of all, The Gold Cup. Worth over half a million and run over three miles and two furlongs, the stage is set for a memorable race. With Willie Mullins dominating the last four festivals it’s very tempting to pick either Vroum Vroum Mag or Djakadam.

However, a quick look at Betstars odds for the race shows us that neither of Mullins horses is the favourite. That honour goes to Thistlecrack, the jewel of Colin Tizzard’s stable but as we all know, in the Gold Cup, anything can happen. It’s a tough one to call, but we’re going with Djakadam who was runner-up in this race in both 2015 and 2016. His good form and consistency this season should see him make it third time lucky.

Our tip – Djakadam

Gameweek 25 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 25 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First, Gameweek 24 Review

Chelsea moved a step closer to the Premier League title with a 3-1 victory over Arsenal helping to maintain their 9-point lead. Tottenham and Manchester City scraped victories and are in second and third positions respectively. At the bottom of the league it was a huge result for Sunderland, who hammered Crystal Palace 4-0 away from home to move level on points with them. There are now just 2 points splitting the bottom 5 teams in what is sure to be a tense relegation battle from now until the end of the season.

There’s no doubts about who was the Fantasy Football star of the week, with Romelu Lukaku amassing 21 points with his 4 goals in Everton’s 6-3 victory against Bournemouth. He’s joined in the Dream Team of the Week attack by Jermain Defoe and Gabriel Jesus, who each scored a brace to pick up 13 points. each. All 4 midfielders were directly involved in 2 goals each while Lamin Koné’s goal and clean sheet ensured he was the highest-scoring defender of the week.

Gameweek 25 Preview

An intriguing match to get us underway this weekend when Arsenal host Hull City at lunchtime on Saturday. A few weeks ago this would have been a game in which Alexis Sánchez would have been captained by the vast majority of Fantasy managers, but with Arsenal losing their last 2 and Hull picking up an impressive 4 points from their last 2 fixtures, against Manchester United and Liverpool, there could be some second thoughts on this. Despite Hull’s 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last Wednesday they’ve still not won any of their last 10 away games in all competitions and indeed lost 9 in a row before that draw. For that reason it’s hard to see past an Arsenal win. The standout choices from this game are either the aforementioned Sánchez (£11.8m), who has 3 goals and an assist from his last 5 league games, or Olivier Giroud, who’s scored 5 and assisted 2 in his last 7.

At 3pm Man United are at home to Watford in a game they’ll be desperate to win to keep in contention for a top 4 finish. They’re undefeated in their last 15 league games and should be too strong for a Watford side who have won just 1 of their last 8 away in the league. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.8m) scored and assisted last time out against Leicester and should cause plenty of problems for Watford’s defence. At the back though United look vulnerable having failed to keep a clean sheet in 8 of their last 11 league games at Old Trafford. Watford should have some chances on the counter attack so Tom Cleverley (£5.1m) could be an interesting pick, having assisted 2 goals from his 3 starts since signing from Everton.

The big match of the weekend is Saturday’s evening game, with Liverpool hosting Tottenham. Spurs have 9 wins and 2 draws from their last 11 games in all competitions while Liverpool are in wretched form, winning just 1 from their last 10. Another defeat would seriously dent their top 4 hopes and on form there’s no doubt about which team we should be looking at for Fantasy Football points here. Harry Kane (£11.3m) has scored on each of his last 2 visits to Anfield and also has 7 goals from his last 7 league games so should be a reliable source of points up front. At the back Ben Davies (£4.7m) could be a cheap source of points in the absence of the injured Danny Rose.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Middlesbrough v Everton – Romelu Lukaku (£9.7m)
Stoke v Crystal Palace – Marko Arnautovic (£7.1m)
Sunderland v Southampton – Maya Yoshida (£4.2m)
West Ham v West Brom – Andy Carroll (£6.3m)
Burnley v Chelsea – Marcos Alonso (£6.7m)
Swansea v Leicester – Fernando Llorente (£6.2m)
Bournemouth v Man City – Gabriel Jesus (£9.2m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week.

Liverpool vs Tottenham Betting Preview – Back Spurs to stay in title contention

Just what damage a bad month in the Premier League can do. January’s winless run has continued into February for Liverpool following a dire 2-0 defeat at Hull last Saturday. Jurgen Klopp’s men look in no shape to even claim a home point against Spurs this weekend.

Chelsea are playing the role of the run-a-way train very well this season, but if there is any side that has enough fuel to catch them, then it is Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have won seven of their last nine fixtures, and remain unbeaten in 11. Tottenham are best priced at 9/4 with BetFred, and this represents excellent value, particularly when considering how efficient they have been against the Premier League big-boys this season.

Victories against Chelsea and Manchester City have been complimented well by solid stalemates against Arsenal and Liverpool.

The stalemate against Liverpool came at a time when the Red’s were flying, but this is anything but the case now. As documented before, Liverpool are having a torrid time currently, mainly caused by a shaky defence which has already shipped in 30 goals this season (the most of any team in the top 8.)

The fluent football of Tottenham has allowed goals to be equally spread between the team, with Kane and Alli sitting fifth and sixth in the Premier League top scoring charts so far this campaign. With chances likely to come thick and fast, both look a good bet to hit the onion bag.

Back Harry Kane to score first at 11/2 with Paddy Power, and Deli Alli to score at anytime, with best odds of 5/2 at Boylesports.

Whilst Liverpool have been poor at the back this campaign, they have not struggled upfront. The Reds have dominated games, averaging 62% possession over the course of the season. They have used this heavy pressing style to score in all but 4 of their 24 league games. With the deadly combination of Coutinho and Mane expected to start on Saturday, the Reds should be good enough to bag a goal in front of their home crowd.

Back both teams to score at 4/6 with Betfair, whilst a Tottenham 2-1 win is available at 12/1 with Bet365.
Those punters looking for value in other markets may be well off looking at the “half time-full time” bets on offer for the match.

Tottenham have been notoriously slow at the start of matches this season, leading after 45 minutes mark just 38% of the time this campaign. Contrastingly Liverpool’s high tempo approach has served them well at the start of games, as they more often than not lead at half-time.

Liverpool half time, Tottenham full time, looks a massive price at 33/1 with Ladbrokes, especially when considering Liverpool’s inabilities to perform at their optimum level for a full 90 minutes. You can enjoy online betting at William Hill, and make sure to check past sports results on their site too.

Saturday’s clash should prove to be an excellent encounter between two top Premier League teams, with Tottenham eventually coming out as the victors.

Gameweek 24 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 24 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a review of Gameweek 23

There were some big shocks in the Premier League in week 23, with only one team from the top half managing to win. That team was Man City, and their 4-0 thrashing of West Ham puts them level on points with Liverpool in fourth and only 1 point from second.

With goals quite scarce this week (aside from Man City the rest of the 19 teams in the league only got 15 goals between them) it was defensive players who shone, and this is reflected in the week’s Dream Team lining up in a 5-3-2 formation. Hull’s Eldin Jakupović thwarted Man United at Old Trafford to pick up 11 points in goal, while Scott Dann was the standout player of the week with his goal and clean sheet earning him 15 points in Crystal Palace’s crucial 2-0 win over Bournemouth.

Gameweek 24 Preview

The opening game of this weekend is a big one, with Chelsea hosting Arsenal at Stamford Bridge at lunchtime tomorrow. The last time these two sides met was a hugely significant day in the title race – Chelsea slipped to a 3-0 defeat but subsequently changed formation to 3-4-3 and went on a devastating 13-match winning streak in the league. That’s put them firmly in pole position in the title race and they now sit 9 points clear of closest challengers Tottenham and Arsenal. They’ve won their last 8 home games in the league by an aggregate score of 24-3 and despite the defeat earlier in the season will have little to fear from an Arsenal side who’ve won just one of their last 4 away games in the league and were beaten at home by Watford in midweek. Furthermore, Arsenal have a wretched record at Stamford Bridge; Chelsea have won 6 of the last 7 meetings here and in the last 3 of those have scored 10 goals without reply. Gary Cahill (£6.5m) could therefore be the pick here, having scored in each of Chelsea’ last 2 home games and holding experience of keeping Arsenal’s attack at bay.

At 3pm Everton are at home to Bournemouth and the home side should be confident of picking up 3 points here, They’re on an unbeaten run of six games in the league and have kept clean sheets in four of those. In their last two home games they’ve put three past Southampton and four past Man City, and a defence as leaky as Saturday’s visitors’ provide further opportunities for goals. Bournemouth have won just one of their last eight games in all competitions and conceded 3 goals in five of their last six away. Seamus Coleman (£5.7m) has a goal and two assists from his last three games, and with clean sheet points in three out of four and a favourable fixture list coming up he could be a shrewd choice.

In the evening game Tottenham host Middlesbrough in a game that features the league’s joint-best defence against the worst attack. Spurs have conceded just 16 goals in their 23 league games so far and have kept 10 clean sheets, while Boro have scored only 19 goals and have failed to score in 9 of their 23 matches. The smart money is on another Spurs clean sheet, and the standout defensive player in terms of Fantasy Football points is Kyle Walker (£6.2m). He’s contributed 6 assists this season, as well as playing the full 90 minutes in each of the 10 games that in which Spurs have kept clean sheets. In the attacking third Dele Alli (£8.9m) is still very much in form, with 8 goals and an assist from his last 7 appearances.

On Sunday Manchester City’s impressive home run (just 1 defeat in their last 20 at the Etihad) should be extended against Swansea. The Swans have picked up recently under Paul Clement, winning 3 of their last 5, but this is still 5th against 17th and the likes of Kevin de Bruyne (£10.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£7.7m) against a side who’ve conceded 52 league goals this season. That’s 5 more than Hull City and at least 10 more than anyone else in the league! Jesus (£9.1m) was impressive on Wednesday night against West Ham, scoring and assisting in the 4-0 rout, and if he gets the nod ahead of Agüero (£12.8m) again then he could pick up more points here.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Sunderland – Patrick van Aanholt (£5.0m)
Hull v Liverpool – Sadio Mané (£9.0m)
Southampton v West Ham – Shane Long (£6.1m)
Watford v Burnley – Daryl Janmaat (£4.5m)
West Brom v Stoke – Peter Crouch (£4.9m)
Leicester v Man United – Paul Pgoba (£8.4m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week

Gameweek 23 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 23 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

First a review of Gameweek 22:

Chelsea and Arsenal were the big winners last week as they were the only sides from the top 6 to secure victories. Manchester City and Tottenham played out an entertaining 2-2 draw while Wayne Rooney became the outright leading goalscorer for Manchester United with his 250th goal for the club providing his team with a last-gasp equaliser against Stoke City.

It was a week for defenders to shine in Fantasy Football, with the Dream team lining up in a 5-3-2 formation. Everton’s Seamus Coleman and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill both scored and kept clean sheets in their sides’ victories over Crystal Palace and Hull respectively. Roberto Firmino was the highest-scoring attacking player of the week, with his 2 goals helping him to 14 points, despite Liverpool suffering a shock 3-2 home defeat to Swansea.

Gameweek 23 Preview

The first fixture to take note of this week is Arsenal’s home game against Watford. The Gunners are in fine form having won 6 and drawn 1 of their last 7 games in all competitions, thrashing Southampton 5-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday evening. This is in stark contrast to Watford’s 1 win in 9 games, and even that was an FA Cup win against a side battling relegation from the Championship. They’ve lost 5 of their last 6 away in the league and should be put to the sword by Arsene Wenger’s team here. Theo Walcott (£7.4m) scored a hat trick at the weekend and that should be enough to ensure that he takes a starting spot on Tuesday evening. He’s missed the last 5 league games through injury but scored 3 times in the 5 league games prior to that and should get chances against a side who’ve not kept a league clean sheet away from home since October.

Also on Tuesday, Burnley will be looking to continue their impressive home record against a side who have been awful away all season. Burnley have picked up 25 of their 26 points this season at Turf Moor while Leicester haven’t won away in the league, losing 8 and drawing 3 of their matches away from the King Power Stadium. Burnley’s defence is key to their record here; they’ve kept clean sheets in 4 of their last 5 home games in all competitions and have conceded less league goals per game at home than the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Tom Heaton (£5.0m) has picked up 93 Fantasy Football points so far this season, a goalkeeping total only bettered by Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. Ben Mee (£4.6m) is also a bargain buy, having completed 90 minutes in every game for Burnley and scoring 61 points in the process.

The big game of Tuesday night is undoubtedly Liverpool v Chelsea. Liverpool here have faltered in recent weeks, winning just one of their last 8 games in all competitions and losing 3 games at Anfield in the last 8 days. They’re still just about clinging onto a place in the top 4, but defeat in this one would mean that they’ll slip to fifth if Man City win on Wednesday. The last thing they want at the moment is a visit from Chelsea, a side who are top of the table, have won 15 of their last 16 league games and are undefeated from their last 5 trips to Anfield (winning 3 and drawing 2). Eden Hazard (£10.2m) scored in the 1-1 draw here last season, and with 9 goals and 5 assists to his name this season will be a real threat to Liverpool’s defence.

On Wednesday Manchester United face Hull City in what should be a routine victory for the home side. They’ve gone 17 games without losing at Old Trafford, which is once again becoming a place that visiting teams fear. United beat Hull here 3 weeks ago in the EFL Cup Semi Final and have won all 5 of their home meetings with them, scoring 16 goals in the process. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.9m) and Zlatan Ibrahimoiv (£11.7m) will be the key attacking threats in a game that promises goals.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace – Charlie Daniels (£5.3m)
Middlesbrough v West Brom – Ben Gibson (£4.9m)
Sunderland v Spurs – Dele Alli (£8.8m)
Swansea v Southampton – Fernando Llorente (£6.1m)
West Ham v Man City – Kevin De Bruyne (£10.5m)
Stoke v Everton – Mason Holgate (£4.1m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update later this week.

Big Data, VR, and Bitcoin – How Sport Became High-Tech

Arsenal Vs Watford
Arsenal Vs Watford” (CC BY 4.0) by joshjdss

With goal-line technology in football, rugby’s try review system, and the seemingly physics-defying cameras – Skycam and Spidercam – at major events, sport is certainly already taking advantage of new tech. However, the spectating of live events is still quite a traditional industry; fans either sit in front of a TV or buy a ticket and join the regulars in the stands.

However, the next few years could alter the way people consume sport in dramatic ways. The development of virtual reality (VR) devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has thrown up a few unique possibilities for spectating, while so-called “big data” and Satoshi Nakamoto’s cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, are revolutionising sports betting.

Let’s take a closer look:

Bitcoin

Bitcoin made the news in early 2017 after it became the most valuable commodity on earth, out-valuing gold. While banks in particularly have been cagey about the currency (the fact that Bitcoin is not owned by anybody means that adding interest, banks’ main source of income, isn’t possible), the enigmatic token is now difficult to ignore.

But what does that mean for sport? The benefits of trading in Bitcoin, things like irreversible transactions, immediate payments, and the enhanced security innate to currency built on “blockchain” technology, has already produced a number of sportsbooks that operate in the currency exclusively.

For example, BitCasino.io, a joint mbtc casino and sports betting brand, allows people to play games and wager on their favourite teams using Bitcoin. In fact, they use Bitcoin exclusively. . A range of unique promotions – a first and second deposit bonus, a VIP scheme, and a 2,000 mbtc raffle – help players get the most from their cryptocurrency.

Tech giant Intel is also trialling the use of blockchain, a type of digital database, in fantasy sports games using a Bitcoin-like currency called “mikels”.

Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City goalkeeper
Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City goalie” (CC BY 4.0) by Ben Sutherland

Big Data

Big data has to be the very definition of a buzzword – it’s thrown around a lot on the internet without much regard for what it actually means. In brief, big data is simply the collection and analysis of statistics to reveal patterns – or not, as the case may be. It’s easy to see how knowledge of trends might give pundits and punters an advantage.

The perceived benefits of big data even prompted Premier League side Arsenal to create an analytics team to monitor player actions and movements on the pitch. Some related solutions, like Prozone, can collect 1.4m pieces of information per match. It’s debatable whether there’s any value in indiscriminate data collection, though. The point is how this data is analysed and how it can help coaches and players improve.

Not all statistics are useful. Possession, i.e. the length of time a team has control of the ball, might mean that a side is so skilful they’re never caught off-guard or that they’ve parked the bus and are timewasting in their own half. There’s very little that can be inferred from the possession stat in isolation.

For the likes of Arsenal and Leicester City, who placed analytics at the centre of last season’s title-winning campaign, it can be useful to know that a player like Oliver Giroud is avoiding using his head at corners or that Kasper Schmeichel is off his line for free kicks (for example) but, for sports betting fans, the fact that Mesut Özil runs so many kilometres per match isn’t particularly interesting – unless there’s an in-play market specifically for that metric.

Millennium Stadium
Millennium Stadium” (CC BY 4.0) by zoonabar

Virtual Reality

VR spectating is sport’s chimaera at present. The technology, however advanced, still struggles with a few aspects fundamental to the experience, like representing the person’s body and creating a compelling multiplayer environment. However, that hasn’t stopped the industry’s innovators dreaming up ways to incorporate the tech into sport.

The beginnings of VR spectating were in evidence at the 2016 Six Nations tournament, when the BBC used 360-degree cameras to film Wales and Scotland’s national anthems. It’s an encouraging development but it nevertheless highlighted the difficulties involved in creating a fully immersive experience for fans.

360-degree videos are pre-recorded; VR events must be played live if companies are going to sell tickets for them. Also, ignoring the expense (360-degree camera rigs use up to six GoPro cameras arranged in a cube), recording in the format requires adherence to strict production rules that wouldn’t work in a fluid environment like a football field. In theory, though, VR technology could allow fans to watch the World Cup Final from the stands without ever leaving the sofa.

It’s still early days for VR, Bitcoin, and big data in professional sport but the three technologies already represent some of the more interesting developments in the industry from the past few years.

Gameweek 22 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 22 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

Gameweek 21 Review

Chelsea got straight back to winning ways with a 3-0 win at Leicester, despite being without their star striker who has been the subject of a lot of media coverage regarding a move to China and a bust up with manager Antonio Conte. In the rest of the top 6, Manchester United and Liverpool played out a 1-1 draw while Tottenham and Arsenal were both 4-0 winners against West Brom and Swansea respectively. Manchester City were the big losers at the top end of the table, suffering a 4-0 hammering at Everton to drop to fifth position.

Some huge Fantasy Football points hauls this week, with the Dream Team scoring 150 points between them. Marcos Alonso’s 2 goals and clean sheet ensured he was the star man with 21 points and Harry Kane wasn’t too far behind him on 17 after notching a hat-trick. Elsewhere Abel Hernández and Marko Arnautovic scored 2 goals each and Michail Antonio got a hat trick of assists.

Gameweek 22 Preview

The first game of the weekend sees the Premier League’s best attacking side Liverpool (49 goals from 21 games this season) at home to the worst defensive side Swansea (who’ve conceded 49 goals from 21 games this season). There’s surely only one outcome here, and the returning Philippe Coutinho (£8.3m) is a man to seriously consider for your midfield. He scored or assisted 11 goals in 11 league games at the start of the season and should be back in the starting line-up on Saturday after missing 7 games through injury. Alternatively, Adam Lalllana (£7.7m) or Roberto Firmino (£8.4m) should be able to pick up good points in this one. At the back Liverpool have improved considerably since the start of the season, keeping 8 clean sheets in their last 14 games in all competitions. Simon Mignolet (£4.7m) and Ragnar Klavan (£4.6m) are both available at good prices and should be able to keep Swansea’s attack at bay fairly easily.

The late game should provide plenty of entertainment as Manchester City take on Tottenham at the Etihad. Pep Guardiola’s City team have become consistently inconsistent, summarised by their last 2 games in which they thrashed West Ham 5-0 away from home in the FA Cup and followed that up with a dismal 4-0 hammering away at Everton. They’ve won 9, drawn 6 and lost 7 of their last 22 games in all competitions and conceded 3 or more goals in 5 of those. It’s anyone’s guess which City turn up on Saturday evening, but it’s still hard to ignore Sergio Agüero (£12.8m) for your Fantasy team. He has an excellent record against Spurs, scoring 10 goals in 10 games against them and also has 11 league goals this season from 1,231 minutes, an average of a goal every 112 minutes. For the away side Harry Kane (£11.1m) is in top form, bagging 6 goals in his last 4 games, and is well on the way to scoring over 20 league goals for the third season running.

On Sunday Arsenal are at home to Burnley and will be strong favourites to claim the three points. Burnley have the worst away record in the league this season, losing 8 and drawing 1 of their 9 games. They’ve scored 3 and conceded 20 those 10 matches, so Arsenal players at both ends of the pitch should pick up Fantasy Football points this weekend. Alex Iwobi (£5.9m) could be an interesting option; the Nigerian is enjoying an extended run in the side and assisted twice in last week’s 4-0 win at Swansea. Olivier Giroud (£8.7m) is a doubt with an ankle injury, and if he’s not available then Alexis Sánchez (£11.9m) could move back into the central striking position in which he’s been so effective this season and could well add to his league tally of 14 goals and 8 assists. Bearing in mind Burnley’s awful attacking record away from home Gabriel (£4.8m) could provide clean sheet points at a bargain price. He’s started 8 of Arsenal’s last 9 league matches, including filling in for the injured Héctor Bellerín (£6.5m) at right back last week.

The final game of the weekend is another home banker, and one in which goals should be on the cards for title favourites Chelsea. They’re up against a Hull side who are ill-equipped for life in the top flight and have lost 8 successive away league games. With 23 goals conceded in those 8 games it’s difficult to see how they’ll keep Chelsea at bay. Diego Costa (£10.3m) is back in contention for the Blues, and if he starts expect him to find the net at least once. Pedro (£7.0m) has 2 goals and an assist from his last 3 appearances so is worth a look in midfield, and at the back Marcos Alonso (£6.6m) continues to impress. His 2 goals at Leicester last week mean that he now has 3 league goals to match his 3 assists for the season so far, and he’s also played the full 90 minutes in all 11 of Chelsea’s league clean sheets this campaign.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Bournemouth v Watford – Ryan Fraser (£4.8m)

Crystal Palace v Everton – Tom Davies (£4.3m)

Middlesbrough v West Ham – Fabio (£4.4m)

Stoke v Man United – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.6m)

West Brom v Sunderland – Matt Philips (£5.8m)

Southampton v Leicester – Nathan Redmond (£5.8m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update next week.

Could Bitcoins Change The Way You Bet?

Sports betting is almost as much fun as the games themselves. It ups the stakes, and lets you use the wisdom of your inner sports nerd in a way that can really pay off. For some, betting on sports goes beyond the pleasure of putting a few quid on a game, and can itself become a rich and challenging enterprise, with real money on the line to boot!

If you are this type of person, then chances are you’re probably consumed by equations, statistics, and mathematical know-how. But one new development might have passed you by. The bitcoin does not represent a change in the fundamentals of betting per se, but it can make the way you bet a whole lot simpler.

Below, we look at what a bitcoin is, and why it might be the stress-free alternative to traditional currencies.

So what is a Bitcoin?

Bitcoins are a digital form of currency created via complex mathematics. They were invented in 2008 by a developer called Satoshi Nakamoto, who to this day remains mysterious. Bitcoins can be “mined” using specialist equipment, and many do just that. However, for most us, the simpler option would be buying bitcoins from any of the trusted vendors.

The next question is why you should use bitcoins over regular currency, and this breaks down into 4 main points.

Bitcoins Transfer is Fast, Flexible, and Under Your Control

Bitcoin transfer knows no boundaries, which means you can transfer your money across international borders, on bank holidays, and to anyone you please. Not encountering any of the usual red tape also means your transfers will happen fast, and the fact that there’s no central authority in the bitcoin network means that no one will be changing this anytime soon. This all makes betting on international games a lot easier, and lets you place your bet at the exact right time.

Bitcoins are Actively Encouraged by Merchants

Because of the high level of security, many merchants are pro-bitcoin, as it can prevent them losing out to fraud. Especially in the case of sports betting, sites like the VegasCasino, available online here even offer a bitcoin bundle in exchange for sign-up, and from there it’s an easy process to place bitcoins directly from your desktop or mobile. In addition to sports betting, the site offers bitcoin slots, blackjack and a variety of other casino games.

Bitcoins are Secure

Merchants are unable to add extra fees without first letting you know – avoiding hidden charges. On top of that, your personal information doesn’t have to be tied to your bitcoin transaction, so the dangers of identity theft are lower than with traditional payment methods. For the extra cautious, there is even a way of backing up your bitcoins, removing nearly 100% of the stress associated with making betting transactions online.

Bitcoins Cost Virtually Nothing to Transfer

Winning big, then losing out due to high transfer fees can be a real blight. Just so, even small transfer fees add up for the betting veteran. Bitcoin fees are often zero, or so close to zero as to be nominal, making them a real money saver for seasoned pros. Moreover, if time is an issue, fees can be increased to ensure your transfer goes through when you need it to, adding that element of flexibility once again.

So, if you’re a walking sports almanac or just a happy-go-lucky punter, it makes sense to put your money where your router is.

Gameweek 21 preview of Fantasy Premier League

Gameweek 21 preview of Fantasy Premier League, courtesy of Bet365

This is the first Fantasy Football update of the New Year, incorporating a summary of the last 3 weeks of action:

Gameweeks 18-20 Review

Chelsea failed to set the new record for successive Premier League wins when they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham last time out. They are still out in front and have a 5-point lead at the top of the league, then the chasing pack are becoming tightly-bunched with only 5 points splitting the teams in second to sixth. Hull have dropped to the bottom of the table having not won in 9 Premier League games.

Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been the form Fantasy Football player over the last few weeks, having bagged a brace in each of his last three matches. He was the joint highest-scoring player in gameweek 18 when he and Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up 15 points each. In gameweek 19 Burnley’s Andre Gray helped himself to a hat trick and 17 Fantasy Football points against Sunderland, whilst in the last round of matches it was a 4-way tie between Ryan Shawcross, Leighton Baines, Dele Alli and Olivier Giroud, who all scored 15 points

Gameweek 21 Preview

After a break for FA Cup and EFL ties the Premier League returns this weekend and the lunchtime game on Saturday pits Tottenham against West Brom. Spurs are in a rich vein of form having won their last 6 games in all competitions. They’ve scored 17 times and conceded just 3 in that run, so are in good condition at both ends of the pitch. They’ll be firm favourites against Tony Pulis’ men, but it’s not likely to be a massively one-sided affair – the Baggies may have only won 3 of their last 13 away games in all competitions but they haven’t lost any of those by more than one goal. A cagey game may be on the cards, and bearing in mind that West Brom lost 1-0 away to both Chelsea and Arsenal last month a repeat scoreline is the most likely outcome. The man most likely to score that goal has got to be Dele Alli (£8.5m). He’s scored twice in each of his last 3 league appearances and now has 10 goals and 4 assists from 19 league appearances this season. At the back the likes of Hugo Lloris (£5.5m), Danny Rose (£6.0m) and Jan Vertonghen (£5.7m) should be good for clean sheet points.

From the 3pm kick-offs Arsenal look to be the standout team to which you should be looking for Fantasy Football points. They’re away to a Swansea side who’ve lost 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions and have the worst home defensive record in the league, conceding 23 times in 10 games. Coincidentally that’s the same number of goals that Arsenal have scored on their travels in the league this season, so this game is pitching the league’s most prolific away attack against its most porous home defence. Olivier Giroud (£8.6m) is in fine form for the Gunners, having scored in each of his last three games, whilst Alexis Sánchez (£11.9m) has been consistently brilliant throughout the season, claiming 13 goals and 8 assists so far in this league campaign.

Onto Sunday and there’s two massive games to finish off the weekend. Everton host Manchester City at 1:30pm, and the Toffees will be looking to extend an impressive home record that’s seen them lose just once in their last 13 league games at Goodison Park. City have lost 3 of their last 6 away games in the league, so there’s every chance that the home side can pick up at least a point here. Neither side look particularly impressive defensively, so it’s all about the attacking choices here. Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (£9.5m) has 2 goals and an assist from his last 3 league games and scored when these two sides met earlier in the season, while for the visitors Sergio Agüero (£12.8m) came off the bench to claim the winner in their last league game against Burnley and will expect to be restored to the starting line-up this weekend.

The last game of the weekend is the one everyone will be watching, as Manchester United take on bitter rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford. United are unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions and have won the last 9, while Liverpool had only lost 1 of their previous 23 games before losing to Southampton in the EFL Cup last night. Neither side can really be faulted on their current form, so Sunday should be an lively encounter. Again it’s the attacking players who are likely to be picking up points, with United scoring in all of their last 10 league fixtures and Liverpool in all of their last 8. Paul Pogba (£8.5m) is dominating games from midfield for United now that Mourinho seems to have found a formation that suits the world-record buy. He has 3 goals and 3 assists from his last 10 league games and has picked up bonus points in 5 of those matches. Meanwhile Zlatan Ibrahimovic (£11.6m) is excelling up front, banging in 9 goals and assisting 4 times in his last 9 league games. Liverpool will be without Sadio Mané (£9.2m) as he is competing in the African Cup of Nations for Senegal, but will be boosted by the return of Philippe Coutinho (£8.2m), who has 5 goals and 6 assists to his name so far this season despite missing the last 7 games through injury.

To finish off, one Fantasy Football pick from each of the remaining fixtures:

Burnley v Southampton – Jay Rodriguez (£6.3m)
Hull v Bournemouth – Junior Stanislas (£5.2m)
Sunderland v Stoke – Erik Pieters (£4.5m)
Watford v Middlesbrough – Fabio (£4.4m)
West Ham v Crystal Palace – Yohan Cabaye (£5.6m)
Leicester v Chelsea – Diego Costa (£10.7m)

Best of luck for this weekend, and we’ll bring you another update next week.

2017 Australian Open Murray to Win 40/1

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Andy Murray at the Australian Open (CC 4.0) by Nick Hewson

The new tennis season gets its first taste of Grand Slam action next week, as the world’s best convene in Melbourne for the Australian Open. 2016 was a landmark year for Andy Murray, who won a second Wimbledon title and Olympics gold medal, before closing the year out with a knighthood from the Queen. He travels to Oz looking to end the curse that has seen him lose in five finals at the Rod Laver Arena, including the last two. He’s proven he has what it takes to beat the best, so will this finally be his year? As always, Coral have the best promotions for the biggest sporting events, so read on to find out more about their new customer offers…

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Start Time: 12:00 GMT Monday 9th January
End Time: 12:00 GMT Sunday 15th January