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Atletico Madrid continues pursuit of Champions League trophy

Atletico Madrid is not going to let a couple of minor setbacks the stratum from the bigger goal and they remain in hot pursuit of the first Champions League trophy. They missed out on a great opportunity last season when they were defeated by Real Madrid, yet they managed to reach the final act of the competition. It is not a small achievement and this time they want to go all the way, as it is increasingly obvious that winning the domestic championship is not an easy task.FBL-ESP-LIGA-GETAFE-ATLETICO

On one hand, they try to defend the title, on the other they have their sights locked on another trophy and fighting a war on two fronts is never easy. The good news is that they take on Leverkusen, who is hardly the best team in the Champions League and the Germans have huge problems in their defenses. Wolfsburg scored five times on the road and this says a great deal about how permeable their backline is, something that Atletico Madrid should be able to exploit.

Without being an overly aggressive formation when playing on the road, Atletico Madrid has Griezmann and Mandzukic in great shape. These two players have dismantled Real Madrid a couple of days ago, so they are entitled to be optimistic about their chances to score in Germany. The home side can’t properly defend even if he tries, but the strategy is to score one more goal than the opponents. This has worked pretty good in the Bundesliga, but it is very likely to backfire in this fixture.

Atletico Madrid the night Real Madrid the chance to score a single goal, which is a remarkable achievement given the fact that their opponents are the top scoring team in Spain. The obvious bet for this fixture is to credit the visiting team not to lose on the road and the draw no bet wager is by far the best choice. Most bookmakers offer odds of 1.90 for this outcome, which is very generous but these odds are expected to drop as kickoff draws near.

Philadelphia prepares for big budget cuts

When you have a payroll of $178 million and you finish on the last place in an otherwise mediocre division, you should expect better things to come your way. Philadelphia spent a lot of money on players and their salaries last year, in an attempt of building a team capable of taking the playoffs by storm. Not only they failed to stay in contention for the World Series, but lost the vast majority of games during the regular season and finished in the last place.

philadelphia-philliesAs a result, the management has decided to greatly cut down on the salaries of most players, with some of them being already on the transfer list. A quick glance at the Phillies potential payroll in 2015 is available at The numbers speak for themselves and it is very likely that this analysis will prove correct, because several players can no longer justify their salaries.

One of the big question marks is whether AJ Burnett will exercise his player option or not, but there is a good chance for him to return to Philadelphia. If this happens, the franchise will pay nearly $13 million and if this happens, the total figure will exceed $140 million. Among those that are guaranteed to remain with the Phillies for at least one season are Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd.

They are regarded as key players and even though they underperformed last season, the management has no intention to let them go, at least not yet. On the other hand, Kyle Kendrick won almost $8 million last season is now a free agent and the same goes for Mike Adams. Basically almost $15 million were cleared as a result of letting these two players go, which should give Philadelphia a little more flexibility.

They are now contemplating the possibility of making a major signing, but is more likely that they will focus on a couple of less prominent players. It is obvious that the strategy of spending as much money as necessary on the players were widely regarded as the best in their line of work didn’t work well. There is also a chance for Howard and Papelbon to be transferred out this winter or in the months preceding spring training.

As for the players that Philadelphia intends to keep, there are many concerns regarding their fitness, especially the veterans. Cliff Lee has spent a lot of time on the bench and even though he was impressive in the few games played last season, that was not enough to drag the Phillies out of the gutter. There are a couple of free agent candidates that Philadelphia will be acquiring, with the names that come to mind being Jason Hammel, Ryan Vogelsong and Justin Masterson.

Derek Jeter ends illustrious career

Some baseball players are guaranteed a place in the Hall of Fame as soon as they end their career and Derek Jeter is a shining example. He played his entire career for the New York Yankees and by the time he exited Sunday’s game played against the archrivals, the crowds were already chanting. He left his team in a clear advantage, with the New Yorkers having a three points lead and it is very likely that the fans will remember this moment long after he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.sportssearch

There were some who expected Derek to sit on the bench as he was struggling with a hamstring one day before, but he decided to go out with the bang. It would’ve been unfair for the legendary player to conclude his illustrious career without a farewell match and Yankees fans would’ve been disappointed. He met expectations on Sunday and played as well as he did many years ago, with manager Joe Girardi only retiring him after he completed his rotation.

The numbers speak for themselves, with Jeter bragging about 3465 career hits which makes him the most prolific Yankees player in history. The same goes for the RBI which sits at a massive 1311, once again among the best Yankee players ever to have graced the pitch. Last but definitely not least, there has a formidable batting average of .309 so it is only fair to say that he will be direly missed.

The organization is going through some rough times and the fact that they failed to make the playoffs is only going to make matters worse. It is only a palid consolation that Boston Red Sox was also eliminated from the race many weeks ago as they finished in the last place on the East division. Overall, the Yankees were mediocre this season, but Derek Jeter was once again stellar and it will be very hard for the team to find a worthy replacement.

Equally impressive was the last match played at Yankee Stadium, where he competed in front of a packed arena and won the game with a walkoff single. It is too early to make assumptions about whether the legendary player will decide to stick around and help the Yankees in different ways or if his baseball career is over completely. The only certainty is that he has a well-deserved place in the Hall of Fame and he will find himself in excellent company in Cooperstown.

Milwaukee is one victory away from sweeping the Dodgers

Few would’ve thought at the beginning of the season, that Milwaukee would be leading the Central division with only a few rounds left to be played. The Brewers have greatly increased their runs production, while bolstering their defenses and as a result they are ahead of St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The advantage is not as significant as one might think and not even Cincinnati should be ruled out, so pretty much anything can happen in the remaining games.sportsearch

For the time being, the Brewers are doing a hell of a job and they are on the verge of sweeping the LA Dodgers, after scoring 13 runs in the first two games. The opening match resulted in a lopsided victory for the hosts, who doubled down on that victory to take a 2-0 lead in the series. Even though they are guaranteed to win this confrontation against the Dodgers, Milwaukee won’t settle for a narrow margin victory and will try to sweep the National League favorites.

It won’t be easy to do it against a stellar starting pitcher, because Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to play for Los Angeles tonight. He has the best earned run average of all pitchers in major league baseball and could win his 11th consecutive decision tonight if he prevails at Miller Park. Everything suggests that he is quite capable of winning here, after posting an ERA of 0.78 in the previous games played on this arena.

He won 10 decisions in a row and limited opponents to an average of 1.62 runs per match, which is a remarkable performance. Clayton doesn’t need too many runs of support and he shouldn’t rely on them either, because the Dodgers look toothless. On the bright side, they have some hot bats in their rotation and anything can change if their top players catch a lucky break.

The visitors need to worry about Milwaukee’s potent offensive, which scored plenty of runs not only against them, but in all the matches played in August. The Dodgers might have the best starting pitcher ready to play, but the bullpen is far less effective, so it is important for Kershaw to last at least seven innings. There are fewer concerns revolving around the Brewers’ starting pitcher, because Jimmy Nelson is not exactly an ace with an earned run average of more than 4.00.

Lopsided match in the AL West

One year ago, a match between Oakland and Texas would’ve been the highlight of the day as these two teams were fierce competitors for the first position in the AL West. At least in theory, they are still competing for a playoff spot, but the A’s have such a commanding lead over the Rangers and Seattle, that they only need to worry about the LA Angels.oakland

In a nutshell, Oakland has won 63 games and lost 38 which is the best record in baseball, while the Rangers have the exact opposite and not surprisingly the worst numbers. It goes without saying that the intensity of this match and the fact that the stakes are quite high might change a great deal in the strategy used by Texas. They have nothing to lose and will take more chances, but this could also backfire and the hosts have a couple of players that can finish the Rangers off early in the game.

Jason Hammel has a winning record with Oakland but he was far from impressive this season, with the last two games being simply appalling. Luckily for him, his new team has the resources to put him through even on a bad day, so it is very likely that his numbers will improve. According to the official website, Jason is optimistic about his chances to return to form against the Rangers, as one can read below

It definitely helps that he will be playing against Jerome Williams who wasn’t particularly sharp in his five games that resulted in a decision. He only won once and that prompted the Houston Astros to trade him, after using Jerome as a reliever for a couple of games. His ERA crossed the psychological threshold of 6.00 and there are not many reasons to expect him to contain the offensive threat posed by Oakland.

Bookmakers are under no illusion that despite having home pitch advantage, the Rangers are unlikely to win the series, or the opening match for what it matters. It took them a while to determine the correct odds for this encounter, but they came to a conclusion and punters can now make a decent profit by backing the visitors. At the end of the series, the A’s should consolidate their position at the top of the standings, while the Rangers will add at least two more defeats, including the opening match.

NL East division leaders play for the first spot

The East division of the National League is once again the weekest in MLB, but unlike previous seasons, the five teams are separated by just a few points. Washington is still in command with 38 victories, but the gap separating them from runner ups Atlanta has been greatly diminished. The Braves made the most of this series and won the first two games to leapfrog the Nationals at the top of the division, but their success was short-lived.
The hosts put up a good fight in the third match and managed to shut down Atlanta, but they were also limited to just three runs. Scoring has been quite difficult for Washington lately and tonight their sluggers will need to step up their game, if they are to defeat Ervin Santana. Under normal circumstances, the visitors would be favorites to win the series with this pitcher on the mound, but Santana is mired in a three games losing streak.
It would be unfair for him to blame his teammates for lack of support, because even though Atlanta scored fewer runs, it was Ervin who suffered a complete meltdown. He allowed 10 runs in the last two games and on both occasions left the manager no choice but to retire him early. A similar performance against the Nationals will cause him to lose his fifth decision and his team will probably get tied up with Miami for the third place.
Philadelphia and the New York Mets sit in the last place with 34 victories, but they could easily close the gap separating them from the leading pack. Dropping points against division rivals is always a problem, but in the south far Eastern division, any mistake could prove catastrophic. Tanner Roark has a positive record, having won six decisions and losing four, but his numbers could’ve been much better.
He has a 2.85 ERA which is significantly better than the one posted by his teammates, but in the absence of enough runs of support, Tanner had to settle for just six wins. As long as he can limit the visitors to less than three runs today, he is entitled to hope for another victory, even if Washington doesn’t improve its offensive overnight. As far as punters are concerned, this final match of the series has a clear favorite, with the Nationals having the better starting pitcher and also momentum on their side.

Boston snaps worst losing streak in 20 years

Boston lost 10 games in a row for the first time in the last two decades and as a result, the Red Sox are sitting in the last place in the division. They have a wide gap to close before the end of the regular season and unless they find a way to rebound quickly, the World Series will probably evade them. The NY Yankees are six points ahead of them, but it is not only the archrivals that Boston needs to worry about.

Red Sox-Braves PreviewToronto is in great form and winning the vast majority of games in May, while Tampa Bay and Baltimore are two teams clearly on the mend. An unfortunate combination of mediocre pitching and insufficient runs production, brought the Red Sox to their knees. On the bright side, they won on the road and scored eight runs against Atlanta, a team that is not exactly in top shape either.

This should provide the visitors with a chance to win the first series this month and also back-to-back games in the process. In order to do so, they will need Jon Lester to pitch the same way he did a couple of years ago, while Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are also expected to come out firing. The two sluggers did a great job in the opening game of the series and kept the team alive long enough, for the Braves to commit an irreparable string of errors.

Scoring one more run than the opponent used to be the favorite strategy for the Red Sox, who have a remarkable offensive lineup. Recent results were disappointing to say the least, but Atlanta looks like the perfect opponent to return to their winning ways. The hosts have their own pitching problems and Aaron Harang is no longer the dominant pitcher that could carry the team through the rough spots.

He played 10 games so far and earned a decision, with just four of them being winning ones and his earned run average is 3.32. The numbers themselves are not too bad, but the starting pitcher will have a hard time limiting Boston to three runs or less tonight. Once the Red Sox start scoring home runs they are hard to stop in their tracks and the Braves don’t have too many players capable of outshooting them.

It comes as no surprise that bookmakers are reluctant to give either team favorite status and as a result both of them receive odds of 1.90. Value is definitely with the visiting team, but punters should also consider a bet on more than seven runs to be scored. This wager is priced at exactly the same value in the upside is that if the two teams score exactly 7 runs, the states will be returned.

Don’t underestimate the Padres in the West

San Francisco is off to a good start for the first time in several years and the best part is that they are playing much better than the Dodgers. Los Angeles has invested a lot of money over the season break and it is still credited with the first chance to win the World Series, but the odds are increasing sharply. Bookmakers have probably realize the fact that they did a mistake by overestimating the Dodgers and they are now trying to cut down on potential losses.

PadresLos Angeles remains a dangerous opponent in the playoffs, but for the time being it is the Giants that lead the division and have the best chance of making the postseason. They won three games in a row and expect an easy victory over the Padres, who are once again struggling at the bottom of the division. The fact that San Francisco has home pitch advantage and will start with one of the best starting pitchers is also a good explanation for why the odds have dropped sharply.

Bumgarner is one of their most reliable players and he has an excellent record against San Diego, but a closer look at his earned run average reveals a disturbing fact. He allowed more than three runs per match against their division rivals, while San Francisco doesn’t have a much better percentage. They won eight of the games played at the AT&T Park and were particularly dominant against Cleveland, a team that allowed 14 rounds.

Sweeping the Indians was indeed a surprising and inspiring performance, but this doesn’t mean that San Diego will simply surrender. They turn to a less experienced pitcher, but Tyson Ross exceeded expectations this season and won 2/5 decisions. He would’ve done much better, hadn’t it been for the awful support given by the Padres, so tonight he will be depending once again on his teammates playing offensive roles.

As far as punters are concerned, there is no value in backing the hosts to prevail tonight, but it would be worth taking a chance with San Diego. Place a small sized back on a surprising victory for the visiting team, or simply sit back and enjoy the game without investing a dime.

Take a glance at the Champions League quarterfinals?

The first elimination round of the Champions League was a complete fiasco, because the favorites cruised to an easy victory. Except for Manchester United who struggled against the reigning Greek champions, all other teams advanced to the next stage easily. This won’t be the case in the quarterfinals, where the best eight teams in Europe will lock horns. Bookmakers have their clear favorites but even though the odds suggest otherwise, these four games will be as tight as they get.

Champions League quarterfinalsBarcelona squares off with Atletico Madrid, a team that is also fighting them for the title in the domestic championship. Both of them have remarkable offensives, but the reigning champions are far more experienced and less likely to succumb under pressure. Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are unstoppable in a good day and they have what it takes to single-handedly lead Barcelona to victory.

Atletico Madrid is not be underestimated though, as they have a couple of options up front and they will probably play overly aggressive in both legs. They know that defending against Barcelona is suicidal and will rely on Diego Costa to catch the Catalans off-guard. Punters would be better off staying away from this fixture, but if you want to make the double legged game more exciting, bet a tiny amount on Atletico Madrid to win the first leg. The odds are terrific and this is reason enough.

Real Madrid should have an easy task in defeating Borussia Dortmund, even though the last time the two teams met it was the Germans who prevailed. Dortmund lost some key players and the replacements are not even remotely as good, while the team struggles overall. They’ve lost any chance of winning the Bundesliga and they are not the best team on the road, so Real should be able to close the deal in Madrid.

Paris Saint-Germain has high expectations for 2014 Champions League, but the fact that they will be running into Chelsea twice hurts their chances. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani are top class strikers and they can overwhelm pretty much any defensive, yet Jose Mourinho is an old fox. He has both the wits and the experience to defend against remarkable strikers and under his command Chelsea can win the Champions League twice in three years. Punters can either bet on the English team to advance to the next stage for place individual wagers on Chelsea to win each leg.

Manchester United has an impressive tradition and many people will try to resurrect the ghost of the 1999 victory over Bayern Munich. Bringing back old memories won’t help Manchester advance to the next stage, because their opponents are much better on all fronts. Without Sir Alex Ferguson, United sank into near irrelevance and their chances to win the Premier League are just as low as their chances to make the semifinals in the Champions League.

Grady Sizemore returns to fitness and Red Sox

Grady SizemoreBoston Red Sox welcome back outfielder Grady Sizemore, the player who helped them secure the World Series in 2011. With him back in their roster, the Red Sox are optimistic about their chances of making another deep playoffs run, and the spring schedule started on the right foot. Manager John Farrell has high expectations from his players, but for the time being he is fairly satisfied with their performance.

The pitchers were particularly sharp and threw a lot of strikes, which made it much easier for the offensive players to do their part. They ran the bases well and even though the two games played so far didn’t last more than 14 innings, they can serve as an accurate indicator for what will happen once spring training concludes. The regular season is going to be highly competitive this season and that’s why it is refreshing for Boston to have Sizemore back even though he is now 31 years old.

He played for consecutive years in Cleveland and won two Gold Gloves before relocating to Boston, but unfortunately for him, injuries kept him off the pitch. 2009 was a very difficult year for Sizemore who undergone several surgeries and he wasn’t fully recovered until late 2013. He takes it one step at a time and these trading games are an excellent way to return on the pitch, not to mention that the opponents he is facing are not extremely tough ones.

Other Boston players were also happy to kick-start their campaign with a couple of friendly games, but both Dusty Pedroia and David Ortiz had some difficulties. They failed to hit some pitches thrown at them by players who grew up watching them play big games, which was a bit surprising for Red Sox fans but thrilling for those throwing the pitches. Even though the baseball professionals didn’t play their a-game it would be unfair to say that they didn’t take the game seriously and their opponents deserve all the credit.

Manager John Farrell wasn’t upset at all by the fact that two of his best players struck out against obviously inferior opponents, although he hopes that this won’t happen anytime soon. Overall, the Red Sox look in good shape to take on a brand-new challenge and with Grady Sizemore returning to fitness, they start with the first chance of winning the division.