THIRTY TWO TEAMS (at the moment 22 have already booked their plane ticket) will compete in Russia next year but quite frankly in a competition dominated by football’s elite, only one of six or seven can possibly win. Indeed until Germany bucked the trend by winning as a European team on the South American continent in 2014, no European team had won in South America and similarly no non-European team had ever won in europe since Brazil in 1962. Horses for courses! Of course these days you can fit stats to bolster any argument and if you consider that the household names of South America ply their trade in La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and the Premiership together with Kowloon Division One! you will appreciate that football is a global sport and has been for some time.
So if I was to say to you that one team comprises of regular players from Real Madrid, Manchester City, Paris St Germain, Chelsea, Juventus, you would certainly fancy their chances, AND SO WOULD I!
So my first bet is a nice healthy wager on BRAZIL at a whopping 13/2 to reclaim the World Cup for their fans. It should also be noted, and is more than a moot point, that over the last decade Brazilian players have been at the forefront of bringing the Russian premier division up to standard and therefore Brazilians especially are acclimatised for not so sunny days in Volgograd. Just look at how competitive the likes of Shaktar or CSKA have been in the premier European club competitions.
I am sweet on Brazil, in fact very sweet, but as my second choice, my hedge if you want, I think that Portugal are massively overpriced at 25/1. They are the current European champions, have good form in recent times and, more importantly, know how to win these types of competitions. So 25/1 can not be ignored.
As for the final European qualifying places for Russia I advocate a straight four-timer on the following: SWITZERLAND, CROATIA, DENMARK and…SWEDEN which pays a shade over 12/1. The reason for the dramatic elipsis is that in picking Sweden, one team who won’t be going is Italy!! And to think of a World Cup Bernie the Book NOVEMBER 2017 89 THE BERNIE THE BOOK COLUMN SAMBA BOYS TO CLAIM WORLD CUP AND VIKINGS TO WREST LOMBARDI TROPHY FROM PATS without the Azzuri is unthinkable but they are going through a torrid time at the moment which bears no relationship to the power of Juventus, Roma and Napoli. But times are tough; the manager is almost certainly going to be sacked, even if they sneak past Sweden.
Away from next summer’s jamboree, things are hotting up in the NFL. Seven games in, out of the 16 regular season fixtures and no team is unbeaten, some of the preseason favourites have suffered season-ending injuries to their star players and some have performed way below expectations. Let’s delve a little deeper because the one thing about uncertainty is that uncertainty breeds different opinions and juicier odds. Let’s make some assumptions. Green Bay Packers: No chance (star quarterback Aaron Rodgers out for the season with broken collarbone). New York Giants: No chance (star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jnr out for the season and a record of 1-5). New England Patriots: Current 4/1 favourites but clearly suffering internal strife and already lost to the Chiefs and Carolina. Can’t be trusted at short odds. I would also give little or no chance to Dallas, Baltimore, Denver and Houston among the more fancied establishment.
One team that is catching my eye is MINNESOTA who have a tremendous defence, and are currently top of the NFC North without their regular quarterback and star receiver. Their injuries should heal soon and added to the fact this year’s Superbowl is in their home stadium, it can’t hinder their chances. They are widely available at 25/1 for Superbowl glory and are certainly worth a punt. I would also augment this with the Carolina Panthers at 25/1 who possess one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks in Cam Newton. Remember, it was only two years ago that Carolina were heavy favourites to win the Superbowl but choked on the big stage against Denver. The NFC South is a minefield with any of the Saints, the Falcons and the Panthers taking the Division but all with good chances of making the big stage. Until next time.
EUROPE’S PREMIER ALL AGE middle distance race this year (as always) takes place on the first Monday in October. Unlike every other year, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe this time takes place at Chantilly whilst Longchamp is being redeveloped. And unfortunately while our digital readers will be reading this on Sunday morning, readers of this column in paper form will only see this after the race. I hope you look at it in time to back ULYSSES for Michael Stoute (left) to wrest the race from the clutches of his good friend Johnny G (John Gosden) who saddles the even money favourite and all-conquering Enable.
At time of writing, Ulysses is freely available at 8/1. But why will it turn over the jolly? He has always been held in the highest regard by the master trainer, indeed he was favourite for the 2016 Derby before an injury setback. That might have been a blessing in disguise as he has blossomed into a top notch middle distance performer, emphasised by a titanic gut-wrenching victory in the Coral Eclipse and an imperious breathtaking victory in the International at York. Sure, Enable is a worthy favourite but she has had a long season and Chantilly’s straight might just find her out. Sir Philip Oppenheimer is unlikely to risk Cracksman and the biggest danger to Ulysses might come from Aiden O’Brien’s ORDER OF ST GEORGE at a universal 12/1.
Now that the 2017/18 American football season is in full swing with everyone having played at least four games of the regular season, it is worth noting our ante-post selections of Atlanta Falcons (16/1) from the NFC and Oakland Raiders (20/1) for the AFC are going nicely. But it is worth mentioning that layers offer prices on not only the Superbowl itself, but also the championships of both conferences and also the divisions. For the sake of £10 to return over £11,000 (so not very likely! But possible!) it is worth staking an eight-timer on the eight divisions. At the time of writing - and odds do change in this buoyant market place - my eight-timer is on the following teams to win their respective divisions, and they are in the AFC: Pittsburgh (4/9), New England (1/9), Oakland (7/4), Tennessee (6/4) and from the NFC: Dallas (6/4), Detroit ( 4 / 1 ) , A tl a n t a (11/8) and Arizona (4/1).
As I said before, £10 can go a very long way! My other headline tip this month centres on the BBC institution – Strictly Come Dancing – and this year it is extremely difficult for me to recognise a celebrity I know! But I am not their target audience. And this brings me to the rub, in that prime time Saturday evening television is aimed at people who regularly text, Snapchat, Twitter etc. etc. and more specifically they are not only the teenagers but predominantly girls. Now I am not being either ageist or sexist, but celebrities are picked for their varying levels of eye-candy! And it’s not just for the men! So who do we have at 7/2 in this field? None other than ex-JLS frontman and heartthrob – ASTON MERRYGOLD. In addition he was in a boy band so he can dance, he is energetic so he can master the routines and who seriously can challenge him? Not TV chef Simon Rimmer, who might do you a nice souffle but will probably dance like a powder puff; not exCommunards and now ecclesiastical Richard Coles who might give you a bit of divine wisdom but is unlikely to humour Craig RevelHorwood; or overweight Holby City actor Chizzy Akudolu who might give you a cardiac arrest just watching her!
It looks to be a three or four-runner race between the aforementioned Aston, X Factor’s Alexandra Burke, the Saturday’s Mollie King and maybe paralympian Jonny Peacock, but for me it’s Aston all the way. Until next time, good punting
THE DRAW IS OUT FOR THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PROPER, but for Europe’s elite clubs it is largely irrelevant as come the knockout stages the likes of Spain’s big two, the Germans of Munich, Italy’s Old Lady, the big money bucks of Paris and a smattering of Premier League sides will form the bulk of the ﬁnal 16, and it is to La Belle France, with the recently acquired transfer of the Brazilian Neymar for 222 million euros from Barca to PSG that our initial investment goes and at a GENERAL 8/1, they represent tremendous value.
Let’s be clear, PSG is loaded with talent with the sum of the parts far more important than one lone player (indeed if Barca were to acquire Courtinho from Liverpool to replace Neymar I think there is little diﬀerence). But this year the Champions League will go to France much as next year’s World Cup might easily end up in Paris. No other bet appeals at this initial stage and my next communique on the matter will be at the last 16 stage. On to matters closer to home and now that the Premier League has seen its ﬁrst couple of games, alarm bells should certainly be ringing in Newcastle and Swansea.
I have already advised Mark Hughes for the sack race, but on a team’s footing I think 2018 will see not only Rafa Benetiz walking from his job due to the lack of investment by Mike Ashley but also now that (and I know you don’t want to hear this, Anthony of Panda Motors) Everton have acquired Swansea’s one and only standout player in Gylﬁ Sigurdsson, the season will be oh so long for the Swans.
The prices for relegation are respectively 7/2 FOR THE TOON AND 9/4 FOR SWANSEA, both of which should be backed as both may go down! And the likes of Burnley and Huddersﬁeld and Brighton might just survive. It’s NFL time! The jamboree that is America’s favourite game begins in early September. Readers of this column will no doubt remember that back in June I advocated a small punt on perennial underachievers and bottomoftheclass participants –the CLEVELAND BROWNS–at 500/1.
Yes, 500/1. And the beauty of 500/1 is you don’t have to outlay an awful lot of money to get a fantastic return. They are currently without ball being thrown 125/1 but I still think there is juice in that price. But aside from that in Superbowl LII (52 for those not familiar with Latin) I think last year’s heartbreak losers the ATLANTA FALCONS will triumph.
History shows that the losing ﬁnalists in the previous year’s Superbowl rarely qualify for the Superbowl the following season but the manner of their loss to the Pats in conceding 28 points in the last quarter was heartbreaking for all to see and at odds of between 14 and 16/1 they are my headline tip.
My second choice is the old black and silver of the Raiders who are deﬁnitely on an upward curve. Now called OAKLAND RAIDERS they will always be the Mean Machine, the nastiest most violent physical footballing side of LA and at odds of 20/1 they simply have to be backed. Until next time, good punting.
IT’S THE FOOTY SEASON AGAIN! And regular readers will know I always put down my fancies in an antepost Yankee before a ball has been kicked. Last year I highlighted Chelsea (13/2), Brighton (14/1) who lost the Championship with the last kick of the season, Bolton (16/1) who were promoted but not as champions and Portsmouth (4/1) who were last day winners. This year let’s try and do better. Football aficionados will notice the logos opposite and will already know my tips and below is my reason for picking them, but for the uninitiated my four fancies are…
A £1 win Yankee (which costs £11) will net you a return of £6,290 at the advised prices which are available today. Obviously a £10 win Yankee will net you ten times this amount but I believe a working man’s outlay of £11 will bring you a champagne return of an amount substantially over six grand! Here is the case for the prosecution in bullet points.
So there we have it, my sixgrand Yankee. Please look out for the handicaps which as of today haven’t yet been formulated but could supply a return on these teams. Readers of last month’s column will know I highlighted Brighton & Hove Albion to make an immediate return to the Championship (again you will remember l tipped up Sunderland for relegation, finishing bottom this time last year. And on that vein here is my sporting choice for the sack race which sadists amongst us (and let’s be honest, we all have a sadistic streak if we’re a gambler!) might choose to have a sporting wager upon. But on who? Well at 12/1 I would have more than a few quid on Mark Hughes at Stoke. The fans are dissatisfied and I think their expectation is higher than the analysts’.
Penultimately, my shrewd Leicester City diehard fan has convinced me that Leicester under their very shrewd owners are going to have a stellar season and at 9/1 for a top six finish (maybe at the expense of one of the London clubs). There might be further celebrations and Andrea Bocelli arias at the Kingpower despite Claudio not being there. Finally, on the Golden Boot front it may pay to go with a team who are bound to score goals and who are going to score more than Manchester City and therefore the 12/1 on Gabriel Jesus being top goalscorer cannot be overlooked. But then I am a Man City fan! Until next time…
STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM, GLASS OF PIMMS, SETTLE DOWN on Murray’s Mound and watch the world’s favourite tennis tournament. What could be better? Well, picking the winner of the men’s singles for one! And get on early because it’s time for NOVAK DJOKOVIC to reclaim the Wimbledon crown. And what a juicy price as the headline alludes to, because at Tom Mix (6/1) you have to simply lump on. But why? Quite simply there are doubts (as there are doubts about him) as to all the leading runners and riders this year and secondly maybe, just maybe, he is awaking from his slumber. As to the first, let’s look at this in some detail.
I can’t believe the Fed Express is favourite! Rolling back the years in Melbourne is not the same as rolling back the years in SW19. At his pomp, he was untouchable but go back three or four years and he was struggling against Father Time then and it was a surprise that he competed so well at the highest level. The same can be said about King Rafa who on clay is supreme but on grass is not as dominant. And then we’ve got the age and the desire. And of Andy, it seems to me he expended so much energy getting to No. 1 that he can’t motivate himself to continue at that level, and while he will go deep into the tournament I can see a quarter final exit for the Scot. The young guns are onedimensional, apart from Alexander Zverev who is my second choice at a tasty 25/1, shop early and you can get double carpet in a place. His stock is high but this could be his breakthrough year.
And what of the women? How can you have Wimbledon without Serena? It’s like having your Pimms without the fruit, but someone is going to step up and having observed at the incredulous nature of KAROLINA PILSKOVA at the French, bemoaning how well she was doing on a surface she loathes and equally looking forward to the pristine grass of Centre Court, I think that time has come for a new champion and at an industry wide 7/1 she is well worth a punt.
Bernie the Book JULY 2017 73 THE BERNIE THE BOOK COLUMN TOM MIX!! YOU’VE GOT TO BE DJOKING Away from the tennis, July also sees the Open, the only true Major (according to the R&A) and this year it returns to Birkdale after some years, and if you look closely enough you might see me on the practice day. Birkdale might be in Southport, which is known locally as the land of the rising sun (not really) but it is a convenient lead into my favourite golfer, and one who I continually tip up in this column, the legend who is number two in the world, HIDEKI MATSUYAMA and the time has come to go large at an attractive 20/1. My other two against the field are Sergio Garcia (great links player) also at 20/1 and the boy who would be king, Rickie Fowler (especially if it blows) at 25/1.
Away from summer sport, I can’t believe that in a few short weeks the 201718 football season will be upon us. In the next issue we will look at the leagues in more detail but for now my first bet of the new campaign is unfortunately on who will fill bottom of the pile in the Premiership. Readers might remember that in last July’s issue I headlined Sunderland to be relegated and finish bottom at a healthy 4/1 and 10/1 and this year it is unfortunate that I alienate all those readers from the south coast as BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION are a great price to finish bottom of the pile at 11/2. Only sadists or Amex masochists need take up this price.
And so finally, are you politicked out? Probably. However, it is not going to go away and we will see in the news over the coming months a variety of markets such as next general election, next leader of individual parties and more urgently, next Prime Minister. Theresa May will probably last until the party congress season and it will be dependent on whether anybody is going to rock the boat further and oust her. The political climate at the moment is heading towards Labour and therefore MPs are likely, especially in key marginals, to look after their back first. But it’s well worth an interest on next Tory leader to be DAMIAN GREEN at 33/1.