Aug 20, 2011

Nacional Montevideo - Defensor Sporting

Uruguay Primera Division, Apertura

Nacional had the expected slow start for this tournament, and now they will have an even tougher challenge, as they face one of their main contenders for the title: Defensor Sporting. Nacional changed coach during the pre-season, and last week, Marcelo Gallardo made his debut on the bench. Pretty risky move, to put a coach without any type of experience, and hope that he does well, and he failed in the first round, drawing 3-3 at River. Awful defending for Nacional, but that should improve a bit today, as Coates will return on the field (best young player of Copa America). But even so, I don't expect too many changes in Nacional's style of play, as it's simply to early for Gallardo and his team. And don't be fooled by the 'they showed character last round, coming back from 0-2... they only did it because River had a man sent off. Defensor are sure to put a strong challenge for the title once again, as they have one of the best squads in the league. They made a strong start by beating Rampla in the first leg, and today they'll also have a boost, as they welcome back 3 players that were injured: Ibanez, Moiraghi and Caballero. Defensor should play more solid than Nacional, and if I'd have to pick a winner, I'd rather go with them. GL!

Defensor (+0.5 AH) @ 1.90, 4/10
Result: 2-2, WON

Aug 18, 2011

Colorado Rapids - Isidro Metapan

CONCACAF Champions League, Group Stage

Colorado Rapids have high hopes with this Champions League, and want to be the first American team to win it. Pretty high ambitions for them, as their chances are really small, but at least they seem to take it seriously. Their coach has said that he will use regulars in their home matches, and that tonight's starting line-up will be close to what we usually see in Colorado's MLS matches. And if the team may look inexperienced at this level, think again... the Rapids have 8 players that have featured in the Champions League in the past, so they could know what to expect from it, especially Tyrone Marshall and Nyassi, who played for Seattle last year, and made it to the group stage after knocking out Isidro Metapan in the preliminary round. The Salvadorans aren't such a bad team overall, but their travelling matches are awful. So far, they have played away from home in 6 ocassions, have never won, and have a goal difference of 2-18, including some whooping 0-6 at Arabe Unido and a 0-5 at Pachuca, in 2009. They have indeed managed to keep it tight usually against MLSers, but I doubt the Americans have played with a full squad, as Rapids are expected to do tonight. Small stakes though, because I don't really like betting on American teams. GL!

Colorado (-1.5 AH) @ 1.94, 3/10
Result: 1-0, LOST

Nacional Asuncion - San Jose

Copa Sudamericana

Paraguay's champion of Apertura will also try to qualify to the next round of the Copa Sudamericana, and they are in a very good position, following their 0-0 draw in the heights of Oruro. The first leg was rather a boring affair, with neither team posing much of a danger for the oposition's goalkeeper. But this should change now, as Nacional is a very solid team (top 3 in Paraguay), and without help from their high altitude, San Jose could be in some deep troubles. So far in 2011, Nacional has played 26 official matches, and in addition to winning the Apertura title, they have also lost only 3 games, with Olimpia and Libertad (the other 2 powers in Paraguayan football) and a surprising 1-5 defeat at Independiente FBC. They are on a run of 7 matches without losing, including their draw in Bolivia, and a draw away at Libertad. The Bolivians aren't in very good form, as they have only won 1 out of their 4 matches in Copa Aerosur, and we all know that Bolivian teams are traditionally poor when playing as visitors in other countries. Nacional and Olimpia are the best Paraguayan teams at the moment, both in great form (Olimpia already won 2-0 at home with The Strongest), and I expect Nacional to easily follow Olimpia into the next round. GL!

Nacional (-1 AH) @ 1.97, 4/10
Result: 1-0, VOID

LDU Quito - Yaracuyanos

Copa Sudamericana

After the 1-1 draw in the first leg, LDU appeared to be entering a small crisis, as they followed that result with a 1-2 home defeat with Independiente Jose Teran, and things weren't looking too good form them. But they snapped out of that in style, as last week they pulverized Manta, 6-0, with striker Hernan Barcos being without a doubt the man of the match, scoring 5 of those goals. All the critics have faded, and morale should be at the top for the second leg of this Sudamericana match. And as we know them, LDU should probably go all-in attack, and try to kill Yaracuyanos early in the game, with the help of the high altitude in Quito. About the Venezuelan clubs, I can't realy draw a line between the good clubs and the not so good clubs (mainly because I don't follow that league), but I do know that Yaracuyanos isn't in the traditional top teams (they were formed in 2006). And usually, Venezuelan clubs are very poor travelers, especially since they have to deal with high altitude. In last year's edition, Santa Fe from Colombia have beaten at home both Deportivo Lara (4-0) and Caracas (2-1), while in the 2009 edition of Libertadores, Cuenca took on all the teams from Venezuela, winning all matches at home: Anzoategui (3-0), Tachira (3-1) and Caracas (2-1). LDU is currently among the top rated teams in South America, so they should have an easy job here, and I don't expect anything less than a 3-goals margin win. GL!

LDU (-1.25 AH) @ 1.75, 6/10
Result: 1-0, HALF LOST

Aug 17, 2011

Santos Laguna - Real Espana

CONCACAF Champions League, Group Stage

First match of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, and we'll have a Mexican team against a Honduran team. This may all seem too familiar, as Santos Laguna has already played in the preliminary round against Olimpia, also from Honduras, and they managed to qualify after a 3-1 home win, despite losing 1-2 in the return leg. And that's how the story with Honduran teams goes... they can be very tough opposition when playing on their own turfs, but go through a transformation if they are to play away. Just for the record, in the preliminary round, Motagua lost 0-2 in Nicaragua (they were already qualified after a 4-0 in the first leg). In the 2010 group stage, Marathon lost all 3 away games (at Monterrey 0-2, Saprissa 1-4 and Seattle 0-2) with Olimpia losing 0-4 against Toluca in Mexico, while in 2009, Marathon lost at DC United 0-3 and at Toluca 0-7, with Real Espana also losing all their travels, including against UNAM Pumas, 0-4. So, the quality difference is obvious, and even though Honduran teams are ok compared to most of the other CONCACAF teams, the Mexicans still hold a comfortable lead in terms of quality, and this should go as an easy home win. GL!

Santos (-1.75 AH) @ 1.80, 5/10
Result: 3-2, LOST

Aug 15, 2011

Sport Huancayo - Cobresol

Peru Primera Division, Descentralizado

Sport Huancayo looks to be one of the most in-form team at the moment, or at least one of the most pleasant to watch, having a very solid offensive line, and usually employing an attacking style of play, especially when playing in the heights of Huancayo. Sotil, Avila and Mostto have shown they are in very good form, and for today's match they will also welcome back midfielder Hilden Salas, a player with offensive profile, who will look to ease the ball transition from the midfield line upwards. 4 points for Huancayo since the Descentralizado has restarted, a draw at home with Cienciano (lead 2-0, but were equalized late in the game, probably due to a drop in morale following a red card) and a good and solid away win at Inti Gas. Cobresol have been one of the best travelers in the league, losing just 1 of their 8 matches played as visitors. However, that defeat came against another of the better teams with altitude advantage, 0-3 with Inti Gas. And they have also appeared to lose their momentum a bit, as they are without a win in the last 4 league matches, so I expect them to have some problems with an in-form offensive power like Huancayo. GL!

Huancayo (-1 AH) @ 1.83, 3/10
Result: 1-5, LOST BIG TIME

Aug 14, 2011

Cartagines - Perez Zeledon

Costa Rica Primera Division, Invierno

Nice increase of the odds for this match, although I don't understand the movements. Cartagines had a good start of the season, taking 2 points in their 2 matches, but both were played away from home, and both against solid home teams, that rarely allow points to slip from their hands. Now, Cartagines will be returning on their home ground, and they expect to record the first win of the season. And they also have some good news to lift their spirit, as 2 of the best players in the team, striker Brenes and defender Chan , are once again available, after serving a prolonged suspension. Perez Zeledon are coming from an irregular campaign so far, winning just one game, at home (the 1-0 win came late, after an 89th minute penalty), while losing with champions Alajuelense, as well as away at Puntarenas. Their coach was sacked following their last week defeat, and I doubt the new coach had enough time to work well with the squad. In the last 10 years, they have played 23 matches at Cartagines's home ground, with the hosts winning 13 of them. With the return of their important players, I see them as favorites here, and the odds are more than tasty. GL!

Cartagines (-0.75 AH) @ 2.15, 3/10
Result: 2-2, LOST

Puntarenas - Alajuelense

Costa Rica Primera Division, Invierno

Odds dropped a bit on this match, but I still find it worth betting. The group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League will start next week, and Alajuelense will be Costa Rica's main performer in the competition. And since they want to put in some good performances, but also to make sure their players won't be suffering from fatigue later in the season, they are already starting with some squad rotations. Therefore, today we will be seeing 4-5 players that will start a match for the first time this season, in a weaker Alajuelense team. Puntarenas should be a good match for them, as they have been looking quite solid in the first three rounds, and are sure to want a good performance and a win, under this circumstances. The opening odds were poor even for a full squad Alajuelense, so with a mixed team we even had some value. Now, the odds are near the real value, but they are still worth to take, as I find it hard to believe that Puntarenas won't be snatching at least a point. GL!

Puntarenas (+0.25 AH) @ 1.71, 4/10
Result: 1-3, LOST