Sep 25, 2010

Nacional - Tacuary

Paraguay Primera Division, Clausura

Tacuary is suffering one of their worst seasons in quite a while, and by the looks of it, they will have serious troubles avoiding relegation in the next two seasons, unless they improve their play big time. They are safe for the moment, as Trinidense, Sport Colombia and 3 de Febrero have much poorer 'promedios', so the season can be as good as over for Tacuary, without any immediate objective. Not the same can be said about Nacional, who despite being 9 points behind the leaders Libertad and Cerro Porteno, they are still hopeful they can close the gap, or at least go for a Sudamericana qualifying spot, and that's the most realistic objective they can set, as they are just 4 points behind Olimpia. While not having a great season, Nacional shouldn't have any problems tonight, against their favorite sparring partners, Tacuary. In the last two years, Nacional and Tacuary faced each other 6 times, with Nacional winning 5 of them, and the scoreline usually goes high (they recorded two 4-0 wins, and another 3-0 win). Quality is on Nacional's side tonight, and with such recent dreadful performances from Tacuary (who despite having 2 wins in Clausura, they came against equally poor teams: 3 de Febrero and Sport Colombia), I'd be surprised if they won't lose by at least 3 goals. GL!

Nacional (-0.75 AH) @ 1.75, 4/10
Result: 1-0, HALF WON

Velez Sarsfield - Olimpo

Argentina Primera Division, Apertura 2010

Can't see past the home win here. And everything points out in favor of Velez: recent form, team quality, individual quality of the players, style of play, etc. Let's take it one by one... No need to insist too much on form, as the stats tables says it all: Velez with 3 wins on the run at home, newly promoted Olimpo with 4 straight defeats when playing away, also receiving 7 goals. Then, we should look at the quality of the team and players... while Velez are having top class players, like Zapata, Moralez and Silva, and so far are looking like solid title contenders (even more now that they've put the Sudamericana behund them- which is often a nuisance for Argentinian clubs), Olimpo has just average (at best) players, and by the way things are looking, they will be going back down to second division quite soon. Regarding team news, Velez should receive a boost, as they welcome back Zapata and Moralez, and that's likely to make a difference here, especially with the system 4-3-1-2 that they are looking to deploy (Martinez and Silva upfront are looking good as well). Meanwhile, Olimpo should receive quite a blow, as they will miss two important players, Marcelo Mosset (DF - 7/1) and Martin Rolle (CM - 4/0). All in all, this home win should be a lock, and even though the odds aren't great for the handicap, I just can't see this one failing. GL!

Velez (-1 AH) @ 1.76, 5/10
Result: 3-0, WON

Sep 24, 2010

Emelec - Universidad San Martin

Copa Sudamericana

I see some nice value here. Even if both teams will be with their best squads, I'd still see this match as a open to any outcome, with pretty much equal chances, so odds over 2 on two of the outcomes are surely value. But Emelec will have some squad problems, especially in defense, and that could prove costly for them. Achilier (29/0) and Mina (17/0), both of them defenders, are suspended after being sent off in the first leg, while another defender, Marcelo Fleitas (29/4), is injured. Moreover, two other defenders are still unfit, and with almost no chances of playing tonight, Morante (21/0) and Zambrano (4/0), thus forcing coach Sampaoli to use Carlos Quinonez (6/0) on the right and midfielder Gimenez will cover the left flank of the defense, while midfielder Jose Quinonez will be drawn back to the defensive line to play along the 3rd substitute for the central defender spot, Deison Mendez (3/0). Otherwise, there should be no other major problems in the team, but this improvised defensive line could get Emelec in a lot of troubles.

San Martin comes without any major absences, and will repeat the same line-up that won in Peru, with the only exception being Heber Arriola's return in attack, where he will make a couple with Alemanno, and with Vitti also in the starting team, we will have on the field San Martin's main goal-scoring force (they scored 26 goals between themselves). Besides that, San Martin has the best squad that they had in ages, and are the most solid and stable team in Peru, and I rate them much higher than Emelec, and with the absences in defense for the Ecuadorian side, the Peruvians should take their chances. Another thing is that despite this match being played in Ecuador, Guayaquil is not situated at high altitude, so San Martin won't have to face the stiff air. GL!

Universidad San Martin (+0.5 AH) @ 2.16, 4/10
Result: 5-0, LOST

Sep 23, 2010

Monterrey - Seattle Sounders

CONCACAF Champions League

No surprises for Monterrey for this match, as they will do their usual 'mix-up' in the starting team. They know quality is on their side, and they shouldn't be too nervous at all, as they are as good as qualified, and now they are only playing for the top spot, in order to avoid playing another Mexican team in the next round. That shouldn't mean they aren't motivated just because they are almost qualified, and I'm sure they won't be slackers, especially since they won all their matches so far, including a 2-0 win in Seattle, using a squad similar to what is expected today. The Sounders are as good as out of the competition, as they don't have a single point so far in the group, and the only way for them to have some chances is to make history and become the first MLS team that wins in Mexico. But that won't happen, that is why RSL will be using a team made up mostly of reserves and fringe players, as their league match against Chicago Fire is surely considered more important. Monterrey should have the upper hand here, from all points of view, and I'd be really surprised if they don't win with at least a 2-0 score. GL!

Monterrey (-1.5 AH) @ 2.03, 3/10
Result: 3-2, LOST

Sep 22, 2010

Sport Huancayo - Defensor Sporting

Copa Sudamericana

Had a high stakes bet in mind a few games ago, but it looks like Huancayo won't be using their best line-up, and despite the squad looking much better than in the first leg, I can't fully trust them. And it remains to be seen how they will play, as qualification is obviously out of the question, but they can at least save their dignity and wash away part of the shame that they suffered in Uruguay (hope they'll be motivated by what happened to their ex-coach, who had to flee Huancayo as he received death threats from the fans). And that's what they say they'll do, wash the shame. In their favor comes, as I said, a better team that took the field in Uruguay, plus a new coach and the altitude advantage, so now there won't be any excuses for not winning. Defensor will probably come for a walk in the park, knowing there is no possible way for them to lose qualification. For that matter, they will only reach Huancayo about 2 hours before the game, and I doubt their minds are too focused on the match. The altitude should take it's toll on the Uruguayan team, so they will just wait to finish the formality of this match. Four changes are expected in their team, but I doubt that will have a huge impact on the game. GL!

Sport Huancayo (-0.5 AH) @ 2.02, 4/10
Result: 2-0, WON

Cruz Azul - Toronto FC

CONCACAF Champions League

It's revenge time for Cruz Azul, as they will face one of the two teams that have managed to beat them in this new season, 2-1 in Canada. However, things will be looking slightly different now. Cruz Azul made an awful first half in the first leg, and the score could have easily been 3-0 or even 4-0, no there would have been no eyebrows raised. But that is in the past now, because ever since then, La Machina managed to win all their 6 games, also managing to score 23 goals, and astonishing 4 goals/match. Great form for them, great goal-scoring rush, and I don't see how Toronto will be able to make some problems again. Some youngsters might play (Meza always gives his official line-up just minutes before the game), but also some regulars are expected, especially Orozco, who scored 7 goals in this group.
The Canadians are facing some serious problems, mostly due to fixture congestion, having already played 5 games this month, and another 3 are pending, and the MLS can't cope with this two-matches per week series, so it is likely that they won't field their regulars. Then, we have their poor form when playing away in the Champions League, as they remain with just the 3 points snatched from Cruz Azul, losing both their other matches, 1-4 at Salt Lake, and 0-1 at Arabe Unido. And there's also the altitude factor, Cruz Azul playing at over 2000 meters of altitude, making Toronto's mission practically impossible. And with Mista suspended, making it sure he won't play, as the team still in with a chance for the play-offs, their focus will surely not be on this match. GL!

Cruz Azul (-1.5 AH) @ 1.78, 4/10
Result: 0-0, LOST

Cerro Porteno - Universitario de Sucre

Copa Sudamericana

Cerro Porteno is passing through a great moment, being undefeated yet in the Torneo Clausura, and also with a big chance of qualifying in the Round of the last 16 in Sudamericana. Their only setback came in the heights of Bolivia, losing 0-1 in Sucre, but now they are out to make amends. Last season, they went all the way to the semi-finals, showing they can be contenders, and now, with their squad looking a bit better than in 2009, I'm sure their sight is set on an even higher finish. And they are taking this seriously, and in order to avoid any possible surprise here, coach Torrente will use a very solid squad, with just a few new elements in comparison to his usual line-up, but even so they should be at least a class better than the Bolivians. Most importantly, it is very likely that strikers Pablo Zeballos (16 goals in Apertura, 5 in Clausura) and Roberto Nanni (5 goals in Clausura) will be starters, and they are very good players, capable of slicing Universitario's defense. About the Bolivians... as we all know, clubs from Bolivia are the weakest in the entire South America, and they sometimes win at home, due to the altitude advantage, but when playing away, 'awful' is a very kind word to describe them. And with Universitario de Sucre not being one of the 'big' teams in Bolivia, and also with their poor recent form, the only thing they can hope for tonight is to avoid a spanking. GL!

Cerro Porteno (-1 AH) @ 1.84, 6/10
Result: 2-2, LOST

Sep 19, 2010

FBC Melgar - Alianza Atletico

Peru Primera Division, Liguilla B

Melgar seems to be safe in the general standings, and only a disaster could see them mixed in the relegation battle. And with a win today, they will be 99% sure of staying in the Primera Division in 2011 as well. And a victory here is more than possible. They seem to have found some pace, and their performances lately have been improving, being on a run of 3 consecutive matches without losing, following a spectacular 3-3 draw at home with Sport Boys and two big surprises, as they won away at leaders Universidad San Martin and at the home fortress of Cienciano. Meanwhile, Alianza Atletico doesn't seem to be improving at all, and their last place in the standings is more than deserved, as they are playing awful in almost every game. Especially in away games, they are even poorer, as they haven't managed to win a single match, while receiving 31 goals in 15 matches, and their away draws came from matches against equally poor teams. Melgar should also have an ally in the altitude, and Alianza are going to have to suffer even more. All in all, I expect Melgar to continue their domination against a team which they have already beaten twice this season. GL!

Melgar (-1.25 AH) @ 1.94, 4/10
Result: 3-3, LOST

Universidad San Martin - Jose Galvez

Peru Primera Division, Liguilla A

The Saints have a great opportunity to practically close the Liguilla A and qualify for the finals when they receive Jose Galvez today, as with a win they will be 11 points clear of Alianza Lima, and I doubt they will be able to recuperate so many points. With San Martin still active in the Sudamericana, 3 points for them today will be golden, as they will be able to focus on the continental Cup. However, this also has a bad part, as some players will be rested today, due to some fitness problems or minor injuries, with the coach not wanting to risk them ahead of their Emelec re-match. Those players are: FW Alemano (26/10), MF Quinteros (23/6) and DF Ramos (19/1), but I’m not worried, since Garcia, Cuevas and Contreras (their replacements) are still good enough to help the team win today, and overall, San Martin is class better than Jose Galvez.
Jose Galvez are last in Liguilla B, and are looking like big favorites for the drop to Segunda Division. Their game isn’t improving at all, and they have won only once in the last 14 matches, away at a depleted Sporting Cristal, so they don’t get much credit for that. Otherwise, just a few draws with more or less equally poor teams, and despite taking a point last week from Alianza Lima, it was more than undeserved, since it came after a penalty scored deep in injury time. I doubt they will be able to capitalize on that point, and against San Martin we should see the real value of this team. GL!

San Martin (-1.25 AH) @ 1.94, 3/10
Result: 3-0, WON

Alianza Lima - CNI

Peru Primera Division, Liguilla A

Following last week's semi-bump that Alianza received at Jose Galvez, following their 1-1 draw, the gap between Los Intimos and Universidad San Martin grew even bigger, but with the Saints winning their first leg in the Sudamericana, they are hopeful of a longer run, and just as well, Alianza will be hopeful San Martin will take some bad steps in the league as well. But first of all, they will need to change their play, as against Jose Galvez they weren't even nearly impressive. That is why everybody at the club, from staff to manager and to players want to put in their best performance today, and score as many as possible to CNI. Despite their small set-back last week, Alianza are still the most in-form team, winning 7 out of their last 10 league games, and is also one of the best home teams, equal with Leon on the stats, losing just 1 and drawing 2 more. Goal difference is pretty much as impressive as Leon's, so a win today shouldn't be a problem. One more interesting thing is that Alianza has won all their games against CNI since last year, most of them by a huge difference of goals, and their most recent one was two months ago, when Alianza trashed them with a 4-1 score. I can't really see CNI holding out here, and a handicap win for Alianza seems more than possible. GL!

Alianza Lima (-1.25 AH) @ 1.81, 4/10
Result: 1-1, LOST