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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

It's a mystery why Dele Alli is not on PFA shortlist

Our experts answer football's big questions

Dele All has been a star performer for Spurs this season
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Ivor Davies, Sky Bet

What’s your best bet of the weekend?
Sporting Gijon look far too big at around 15-2 to upset Real Madrid at the Estadio El Molinon on Saturday. Gijon need to win – they are five points off safety – and Real will surely rest players with a view to the Bayern Munich game on Tuesday. Real are three points clear with a game in hand at the top of La Liga and they can afford to write this one off. 

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
We are happy to take on Arsenal away at Middlesbrough. This Arsenal side absolutely need to put in a performance for their manager. It could very well be in this game but I wouldn’t back them at the price – they were awful last Monday against Palace. Liverpool have struggled against lesser teams and also look worth opposing against West Brom. 

Where’s the value at Old Trafford?
I have to stick to my ratings here – I have Chelsea rated a tenth of a goal better than United. But when we factor in home advantage; which is usually about 0.35 in the Premier League I make Utd about an 11-8 shot to win this match. At the time of writing we can back Utd at 9-5 which would be the value play to me. 

Would you rather back Wenger to stay or go before next season?
To go – the pressure is mounting not just from the fans but ex-players and pundits alike. The board will finally have to take note and this season will probably be his last as Arsenal manager.

Do you have any objections to the PFA shortlists for player and young player of the year?
I’d have had Dele Alli in the shortlist ahead of Sanchez. Arsenal’s problems have been well documented and Sanchez has been poor for the last couple of months. Alli can gain some compensation by winning the young player of the year again. Kante deserves to win the main award but is priced up accordingly.

Give us a winner for the midweek European matches
Besiktas look overpriced to beat Lyon at the Vodafone Stadium. The Black Eagles sit four points clear at the top of Turkish Super Lig and are undefeated at home in the league this season. They conceded two late goals in France but they have a precious away goal and the early price about a home win in this one looks more than fair.

Steve Davies, Racing Post Sport

What’s your best bet of the weekend?
Watford at home to Swansea. I’m slightly surprised that the Hornets are around the 6-4 mark given they are nine points superior to the Swans, who look to be really struggling. Watford’s last two home games – against Sunderland and West Brom – resulted in wins to nil while Swansea have lost 13 of their last 16 away games in all competitions.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Stoke are short enough against a Hull side who seem to be relishing this relegation scrap. The Tigers have improved markedly under Marco Silva and look to be taking on Mark Hughes’s men at a good time. Stoke should be safe on 36 points but are without a win in five and will be getting edgy. Hughes would take a drab 0-0 draw to inch closer to safety.

Where’s the value at Old Trafford?
A draw price of 9-4 looks pretty old school, but you can understand why. United deal only in draws at Old Trafford while a point would do Antonio Conte very nicely. Neither side looks like losing at the moment, I don’t imagine United will be overly-expansive and you can be sure Chelsea will sit back and soak up what’s coming. A stalemate looks obvious.

Would you rather back Wenger to stay or go before next season?
Go. Surely he’s got to now. An FA Cup win shouldn’t save him if they don’t finish in the top four, and that’s not going to happen. But beyond all that, Wenger has partially helped to create this ludicrous situation where his future is now seen as more of a talking point than the future of the team. The board have got to see that that’s unacceptable.

Do you have any objections to the PFA shortlists for player and young player of the year?
Yes. It’s entirely predictable and shows how unimaginative those supposedly in the know are. I would have no problem jettisoning Ibrahimovic and Sanchez. Where’s Alderweireld from the best defence in the league or team-mate Alli? And why are WBA and Soton top ten having scored less than 40 goals? Because of the likes of Jonny Evans and Oriol Romeu.

Give us a winner for the midweek European matches
Atletico to win at Leicester. While I can understand Craig Shakespeare moaning about the penalty which beat the Foxes in Spain, he can have no complaints about the outcome. Indeed the 1-0 scoreline flattered Leicester. Leicester will have to be more adventurous at some point at the King Power and that plays into the hands of Diego Simeone’s men.


Nick Goff, former odds-compiler

What’s your best bet of the weekend?
The silly season has now begun where often – though not always – motivation can be over-factored into prices. One such case may be at Vicarage Road where already-safe Watford look a very decent price against a Swansea side whose resurgence has stuttered of late.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
I wouldn’t want to be on Manchester City at odds-on at Southampton. Saints have been very inconsistent all season, but at their best they’re excellent, and can be a match for anyone in the country.

Where’s the value at Old Trafford?
It’s quite rare for me to want to be with goals in this type of fixture, but I’m not expecting it to be as cagey as usual. A point does nothing for United, so a rather unusual throwing caution to the wind approach from Mourinho is possible, and I’ll back over 2.5 goals. 

Would you rather back Wenger to stay or go before next season?
First off, I think the way both Wenger and the club have handled this pathetic saga has been atrocious. It’s time for him to go and although I think he probably will, it’s not something I’d be having a penny of my own on.

Do you have any objections to the PFA shortlists for player and young player of the year?
Yes. Dele Alli has been world class this season – he and the equally underrated Adam Lallana are probably now England’s two best footballers. Alli should be on the main list ahead of Lukaku, whose all-round game still needs to improve if he wants to be first choice at a top club.

Give us a winner for the midweek European matches
I don’t think Dortmund are doomed yet. Playing 24 hours after being shaken up by an attack on their bus obviously gives some excuses for the first-leg result, but with a week to recover, against a Monaco side who will always give chances, I still believe they have a fair chance of qualifying.


Didi Hamann, Liverpool legend

What’s your best bet of the weekend?
Crystal Palace against Leicester. Craig Shakespeare’s side have booked Premier League survival which means they’ve got only one target left – Tuesday night’s Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid. That may well give Palace a free hit here and on a run of five wins in six, culminating in that stunning 3-0 demolition of Arsenal, they’ll fancy their chances.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Stoke have hit the buffers early and it might be hard to get themselves going again between now and the end of the season. They aren’t scoring goals and won’t find Hull an easy touch. Hull, like Palace, are big improvers under their new manager and carving out some seriously impressive results.

Where’s the value at Old Trafford?
United. It’s easy to criticise United for their inability to see off sides at Old Trafford, but they are playing well and just don’t seem to be getting that little bit of luck. Chelsea will definitely be feeling the heat a bit and this is precisely the type of game where down the years Jose Mourinho has shown his mettle. They’ve got the players to win this match and I reckon they’re a fair price.

Would you rather back Wenger to stay or go before next season?
To stay. I’m certain he’ll say he’s staying. You get the impression that Wenger can pretty much say and do exactly what he wants at the moment. It’s a terrible shame to see this soap opera going on but the fact that the board have only ever come out and backed the Frenchman suggests he’s above criticism from the corridors of power.

Do you have any objections to the PFA shortlists for player and young player of the year?
Not really. As I’ve said before, I think Zlatan Ibrahimovic should win the thing because of the way he has single-handedly carried the Manchester United attack domestically and in Europe, and the impact he’s made in his first season. But Ngolo Kante’s form is clearly hard to argue with. Dele Alli might have merited a place in the main list.

Give us a winner for the midweek European matches
Dortmund to win in Monaco. I was very surprised when Uefa decided their home tie with Monaco had to go ahead last week 24 hours after the team bus was bombed. It’s hardly a surprise that the players weren’t at the races after enduring that ordeal. A week on and galvanised after that 3-2 defeat, expect Dortmund to hit back hard.


Ian Wilkerson, Racing Post Sport

What’s your best bet of the weekend?
Under 2.5 goals in Middlesbrough v Arsenal on Monday. Boro are going down with a whimper and have scored more than one goal in a league game just once since December 17. The Gunners were woeful at Crystal Palace and they rarely looked dangerous against the Eagles, so don’t expect many chances.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Liverpool have lost just one of their last eight league matches but I’m in no rush to back them at odds-on at West Brom. The Reds had their goalkeeper to thank for their three points at Stoke last week and they could struggle against a physical team who are a threat at set-pieces.

Where’s the value at Old Trafford?
I like Chelsea. United have not lost in the league since being defeated by Antonio Conte’s team in October, but I can’t have much faith in a team who have won fewer home matches than Hull beating the league leaders. I’ll back the Blues to show their class.

Would you rather back Wenger to stay or go before next season?
I’ve got a feeling he will stay. He announced a few weeks ago that he had made his decision and I think the club have been waiting to announce it after a good result to avoid a public-relations nightmare. It’ll be Wenger’s decision and I would be surprised if he walks away.

Do you have any objections to the PFA shortlists for player and young player of the year?
It is difficult to see how Dele Alli is not in the list for the main award when he is a short odds-on price to win the young player award in a field that contains Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku, both of whom are up for the top gong. Alexis Sanchez’s performances earlier in the season make his inclusion understandable.

Give us a winner for the midweek European matches
Much will be made of the likely atmosphere at the King Power Stadium, but I think Leicester have bitten off more than they can chew against Atletico Madrid. I’ll be snapping up any odds-against available about the Spaniards winning the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Dele Alli has been world class this season – he and the equally underrated Adam Lallana are probably now England’s two best footballers
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