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Friday, May 30, 2008

Ana Ivanovic French Open favourite after Serena beaten

Ana Ivanovic is the new favourite for the women's singles at the French Open following the shock exit of Serena Williams.

Williams had been the market leader heading into the tournament - but she crashed out in the third round at the hands of Katarina Srebotnik. It was Williams' earliest exit from Roland Garros since 1999 and she is the highest seed so far to leave the women's draw.

And it means that Ivanovic, a beaten finalist last year, now tops the betting at 4.00 at BoyleSports.

She's followed by Jelena Jankovic at 5.00 ( Bet365 ), Maria Sharapova at 7.00 ( VC Bet ) and Svetlana Kuznetsova at 8.50 ( VC Bet ).

The rest of the field are all over 10.00.

BookieLabrat - Live Betting Odds on Womens French Open Title
GoonersGuide - Live scores from the French Open at Roland Garros

Premier League Wages and Profits

The Premier League is generating more money than ever but only eight clubs are actually turning a profit says a Deloitte study of the 2006-07 season.

In 2006-07 Premier League clubs' salaries rose 13% - slightly ahead of a median 11% rise in revenue - and the situation is worse in the Championship as average wage increases of 14% outstripped median revenue growth of 3%.

There are startling disparities between the important wages-to-turnover ratios at clubs in England's top two divisions.

The average Premier League figure stood at 63% and the Championship level at 79% but there was a lot of variance. Tottenham had the lowest wages/turnover ratio or just 42%, followed by ManYoo (44%), Arsenal (50%) and then the two Sheffield clubs.

Liverpool stood at 58% and Chelsea was a high 70% - but then with a Russian sugar-daddy normal financial metrics mean little to the Blues at present.

There were high figures figures of 80% and 85% at Middlesbrough and Blackburn respectively. Alarmingly, Sunderland's ratio was 90% and Derby's 125%. But the latter two probably reflect the payment of performance-related bonuses to players for winning promotion.

Overall, only eight Premier League clubs showed operating profits, namely Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle, Reading, Sheffield United and Watford.

If your club isn't on this list then they're spending beyond their earnings - and any downturn in fotoball revenues could hit home hard ...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

South African violence escalates - Blatter's boys ignore it

Sepp Blatter - a man out of touchA United Nations advisor on Sports warned the FIFA should consider moving the 2010 World Cup elsewhere after further outbreaks of violence against foreigners in South Africa this week.

At least 56 people died and up to 100,000 were displaced when mobs armed with clubs, knives and stones rampaged through shantytowns in Johannesburg, Cape Town and other parts of South Africa this month.

"The images from South Africa were horrible. They're putting an enormous strain on the soccer World Cup," Willi Lemke, the U.N. Special Advisor on Sport, told Reuters.

He said he hoped the incidents were a lone outbreak of violence. "But if the scenes repeat themselves, FIFA will rethink its decision in favour of South Africa and, if necessary, pull the plug," Lemke said.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth - as Sepp Blatter won re-election to the FIFA presidency on the strength of an African Bloc vote after ensuring that South Africa won the 2010 World Cup. He will railroad any discussion on fan safety and push ahead.

Blatter, who is currently in Australia lapping up a lifestyle of 5-star hotel luxury with the rest of the FIFA executive board said on Tuesday the violent incidents had been discussed by but they were confident the situation was under control.

They will experience South Africa in air-conditioned Limosine luxury, surrounded by a posse of body guards and declare everything fine and lovely in their secured compound.

Make no mistake - if the 2010 World Cup goes ahead in South Africa as the situation stands - the FIFA executive will have blood of fans on their hands.

Sepp Blatters 6+5 barred again - but he blunders on.

Plans by the Fifa president Sepp Blatter to force football clubs to field a majority of their nationals in their starting line-ups were wrecked today when the European Commission denounced the scheme as illegal and discriminatory.

In a severe blow to Blatter's proposals ahead of a Fifa congress in Sydney on Friday, Vladimir Spidla, the European Commissioner for employment, said any EU country where the Blatter "6+5" formula was applied would face legal action.

"The Commission is showing the red card to the 6+5 rule," said Spidla. "Professional footballers are workers."

The announcement effectively kills off the Fifa proposal.

Blatter has been lobbying hard for support for his radical and controversial quotas scheme which could change the face of the modern game. The scheme would compel clubs to have six players from their home countries in their starting 11. But the plan appears unworkable if not applied in Europe.

Earlier this month the European parliament voted by a margin of more than 10-1 against Blatter's plan. Yesterday's statement from the Commission represented a pre-emptive strike against the Fifa boss ahead of the Sydney congress which is to vote on 6+5.

Blatter has been seeking backing for his proposal by complaining about the Premier League's domination of the Champions League this year, arguing that his scheme would create a more level playing pitch internationally as well as in domestic competition.

Spidla countered that EU regulations on free movement of labour and non-discrimination had to be observed, meaning that there could be no team quotas based on ethnicity.

Mr Blatter and his sycophantic cronies on the various FIFA executive are said to be "all in favour" which really translates to say that no-one feels strong enough within FIFA to oppose the autocratic Blatter who is significantly out of touch with 21st century fans.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mancini leaves Inter Milan - Mourinho to take over?

The agent of Roberto Mancini has indicated that his client is no longer the coach of Serie A outfit Internazionale, although an official announcement has yet to be made by the Italian champions.

Mancini looks to be on his way out of the club less than a fortnight after delivering the club's third consecutive Serie A title.

The 43-year-old's agent, Giorgio De Giorgis, indicated in an interview with Sportitalia television on Tuesday night that Mancini has left the club following a 25-minute meeting with Inter president Massimo Moratti earlier in the day.

The agent told Sportitalia television: "Roberto never expected it to end like this. Roberto is very disappointed also because he has not yet finished his job - he wanted to try and win even more league titles, and maybe even the Champions League."

Mancini has endured a turbulent season at the San Siro, tendering his resignation in the immediate aftermath of the club's Champions League elimination by Liverpool in March only to be talked into a rethink by Moratti.

De Giorgis also suggested that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been lined up as Mancini's replacement.

Reports in Italy suggest Mourinho arrived in Milan on Tuesday evening and may be presented as the club's new coach as early as Wednesday while Mancini has been linked with the Chelsea vacancy at Stamford Bridge.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

David Beckham Scores From 60 yards. (Video)

The MLS football competition continues on in the United States - marked mainly by a series of competitive but uninspiring games.

I know that playoffs are an American-thing, I guess it supposed to "add excitment" by keeping more teams in with a chance of winning - but a league where 8 of 14 teams progress to a knockout competition is a poor idea.

Last season you needed 38 points from 30 games to "reach the playoffs" and that's a total that some teams reached after 20 games. No wonder the regular season seems to drag on with little real interest.

So it takes something out of the ordinary to get "Sock-ker" on the US news - and this 60 yard goal from David Beckham did it - for about 20 seconds.

It's a good long distance chip to score - but honestly - it's another sign of the woeful level of domestic football in the US. I hope that you're enjoying the lifestyle David - because you're rapidly becoming a sideshow.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hull City just 3/10 to be relegated from Premier League


Yes - Hull City won promotion to the Premier League via the playoff system with a 1-0 victory over Bristol City - hurrah!

But just two days later the reality of the situation has come home to roost with UK bookmaker Bet365 making the Tigers hot favourites to go straight back down.

Hull City are priced at 3/10 with bet365 to go straight back down - or if you're a loyal fan you can back the Tigers at 12/5 (3.40) to survive for a season (also at Bet365)

Spokesman Steve Freeth said: "Phil Brown will now have a lot more money for players at his disposal, but he'll have to spend it wisely to have any chance of surviving in the Premiership."

Frank Rijkaard favourite to land Chelsea job at bet365

Frank Rijkaard is the early favourite at bet365 to become the new Chelsea boss after Avram Grant was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich.

After months and months of speculation, Chelsea announced that they had terminated Grant's contract - and Rijkaard, who recently left Barcelona, is now the 15/8 favourite to fill the hot seat.

bet365 spokesman Steve Freeth "The inevitable has happened and all the odds on quotes about Avram Grant going were spot on. Rijkaard has been linked with the jobs for months and he's currently top of our list at 15/8."

Roberto Mancini
, who recently guided Inter Milan to the Serie A title is next in bet365's market at 3/1, while Guus Hiddink has drifted to 5/1 from an initial 7/2.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, who held talks with Chelsea when he was England boss, is 5/1 despite still being in place at Manchester City.

You can get 14/1 about a return for Jose Mourinho, who left Stamford Bridge less than a season ago back in September which is the same price as another Chelsea favourite, former striker Gianfranco Zola.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Paddy Power covers the 2008 WSOP with final table bets

Ireland's largest bookmaker Paddy Power is offering a "To Make the Final Table" market on the upcoming 2008 WSOP main event in Las Vegas.

The biggest stars in the poker world will compete alongside thousands of amateurs at the Main Event, which is scheduled to begin on July 3rd and play down to the final table of 9 players on July 14th. At this point play will be suspended until early November, when the final table will be played out on live television.

Defending champion Jerry Yang is available at 300/1 and 2006 champion Jamie Gold is available at 200/1, while some of the world's most famous players, including Gavin Griffin, Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonius & Gus Hansen, make up an elite group of professionals available at 100/1.

WSOP $10,000 Main Event - To Make the Final Table

Allen Cunningham 100/1
Gavin Griffin 100/1
Phil Ivey 100/1
Patrick Antonius 100/1
Gus Hansen 100/1
Erik Seidel 125/1
Chris Ferguson 125/1
Tony G 150/1
Doyle Brunson 150/1
Jamie Gold 200/1
Jennifer Tilly 300/1
Jerry Yang 300/1

And PaddyPower is offering a money-back special on the "To Make the Final Table" market; where they will refund all losing bets in this market if any Irish player reaches the final table.

The "Top Irish Player" market will be hotly contested as usual, with Ireland's top players competing to be the 2nd Irishman (after Noel Furlong) to take home a Main Event bracelet. A collection of the top players on the island makes up the leading group available at 22/1.

WSOP $10,000 Main Event - Top Irish Player

Andy Black 22/1
Ciaran O'Leary 22/1
Marty Smyth 22/1
Roy Brindley28/1
Padraig Parkinson 35/1
Ken Powell 66/1

The "Top English Player" market is as hard to call as the Irish market, with an especially strong collection of English players expected to compete at the 2008 WSOP Main Event. Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott is one of the three favorites available at 50/1, with Dave Colclough available at 100/1.

WSOP $10,000 Main Event - Top English Player

Dave Ulliott 50/1
Ram Vaswani 50/1
Roland De Wolfe 50/1
Neil Channing 66/1
Jon Kalmar 80/1
Dave Colclough 100/1
Barney Boatman 100/1
Victoria Coren 200/1


To check out the bets - it's hiding on the Sports Section of (but this link will take you directly there)

To actually play Online Poker visit Paddy Power Poker.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Aussie Keeper prefers Fulham over Bayern Munich or Juventus?

Australian Mark Schwarzer has rejected offers from Bayern Munich and Juventus ... to join Fulham ?

WTF? Are we in the twilight zone? I have nothing more to say on this ...

Champions League Day

Ok - this post will be a little different from the rest - instead of commenting on football and/or gambling its simply going to be a chronicle of how I spent my day today - and realised that there is BIG value in taking time out.

I got up this morning at about 7:30am, which means that because I'm living at the bottom of the world it was already close to halftime in the Champions League game in Moscow.

So I watched the pre-recorded game on DVD at x2 speed - mainly because it was quite a boring game - but also because I cannot stand the ESPN commentators especially that idiot Tommy Symthe (with a "y").

Ronaldo scored a good goal - Lampard also scored before halftime - and that was the end of the scoring. It goes to a penalty shoot-out and John Terry does a "Beckham" with a potentially title-winning penalty (slips and shoots wide) - and eventually ManYoo win the big cup 6-5 on PKs.

Sir Alex Ferguson claims United deserved it (bollocks - penalties are a lottery) and Avram Grant say Chelsea were unlucky (yes - but only because they lost the lottery).

Somehow it all seems very unreal down here in New Zealand. I make a few posts on the forum - but in all honesty it seems a non-event.

I work from a home/office doing internet and computer consultancy work - so the time is my own to plan - and looking at the beautiful autumn day outside (15C and sunny) I did not really feel like doing too much work.

Then I get an email from a football mate of mine who says that the local professional side (Wellington Phoenix) will be training at a ptich that my pub side has played on this season.

I head down and have a look and it's interesting to see the amount of ball work that they're doing as part of their pre-season training. The new fitness coach who worked with Blackburn Rovers has it all running smoothly.

Spend some of the time while watching talking with my mate (Domey) about our game this weekend with Stokes Valley in Division Six of the local Wellington leagues. (we're Wgtn Untd Arms)

Drive back home - it takes 10 minutes and only ONE set of traffic lights and have some lunch - a home made pizza with my partner, and I manage to score the lions share of the pizza slices 5-3 ! Result !! ;-)

In the afternoon I deal with a few emails, and handle a few clients, before heading to the gym and doing 40 minutes exercise on my knee (after a recent operation) before heading home around 3:30pm.

While I was away working out at the gym the local government have released a budget where they've finally decided (in election year) to FINALLY give the workers a bit of a tax break (ie not actually tax people as much before) and I work out that I should be around $1500 NZ pesos better off next year ! Result !! ;-)

I head for a long deep warm bath, with a nice ice cold bottle of Stella Artois, and enjoy the taste while looking out over Wellington habour in the late afternoon. Cold, crisp and beautiful (both the beer and the view) and a great way to relax. Result !! ;-)

Now I'm at the computer writing a daily blog and then I'll nip down to the living room after this blog, and turn on the fire, and enjoy a nice glass of red wine (Te Mata Coleraine) and a good meal. Result !! ;-)

So what was the point of this blog post? I'm not sure. IT could just be a reminder to everyone to take time to enjoy basic things. It could be a post that tells fans of football teams that didn't win anything this year (ahem - like Arsenal) that it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things ..

Of course IF Arsenal win the Champions League next season then I'll post a very different sort of post - but in the meantime - take the time to enjoy things guys ...


Paddy Power pays out almost €1.5 million in refunds

IT looks like it's a case of one good refund deserves another as that mad Irish betting firm PaddyPower has paid out refunds on the Champions League final totalling almost €1.5 million.

Sports Betting site is reporting in their betting blog that the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power was offering to return lost bets as part of a "Russian Roulette" campaign if Ronaldo scored in normal time - and he did after 26 minutes.

The groans from Paddy's Dublin headquarters must have been audible in Moscow as the total payout in returned funds for is a staggering €1.5 million.

See full details in the post in the Bookielabrat betting blog

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Irelands EuroVision Song Turkey Stuffed

Ireland's entry for the Eurovision song contest was a Turkey - literally a puppet Turkey !
Click to visit Paddy Power now
Not surprisingly Dustin the Turkey got beaten - but not until after punters had placed over EURO 100,000 on the poultry puppet at Paddy Power.

In a much bigger surprise the Irish bookmaker has decided it must all have been a joke and has refunded all bets on Dustin the Turkey !!!

That's a top class bookmaker - and why we make them #1 for these sort of punts - so check out Paddy Power for all your novelty bets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Moscow pitch less than perfect.

The state of the surface at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium pitch is causing concern ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United.

The old synthetic pitch was ripped up after England's Euro 2008 qualifer against Russia in October and a new grass one laid in readiness for the final.

But experts decided it was too bumpy, prompting stadium authorities to lay another at a cost of £160,000 and using turf from Slovakia. So laying of a new grass surface at the Moscow venue was completed just 15 days ago.

Englishman Matt Frost who is in charge was asked whether he felt the pitch could have an adverse affect on the final said he was uncertain.

"You never know how it could affect the game - until you actually play on it you don't know. There is always that apprehension."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Win tickets to the Euro 2008 semi-final game in Vienna !

Now you can win 2 tickets to the Euro 2008 semi-final in Vienna, travel expenses, first class hotel for 2 nights, and a sweet VIP-package on top of that!

Do you like football and VIP treatment with lots of free beer?!!

All you have to do to have a chance to win this package is to place an accumulator bet at Betsson!

All customers that place a bet for at least 5 euro (or equivalent in their own currency) on a triple or higher during May will get a ticket in our big lottery that will take place on the 1st of June.

This means that the more coupons you place fulfilling these conditions the more tickets you get in the lottery and the bigger chance you have to go to Vienna in June!

From all these tickets we will draw five lucky winners and the customer with the highest winning odds on any of his (or her) winning tickets with a stake over 5 euro will get two tickets to the 2nd semi-final on Thursday, 26th June 2008 Vienna, Austria.

The four runner-ups will get 100 euro each on their account.

1st Prize:
2 tickets to the 2nd semi-final on Thursday 26th June 2008 in Vienna.
With travel expenses, and luxury hotel.

2nd - 5th Prizes :
100 euro on your account.

You've gotta be in to win - so make sure that you place at least one treble at Betsson Sportsbook this month - and win the best VIP football experience going.

Celtic now short priced favourites to win Scottish League.

Rangers 1-1 draw with Motherwell on the weekend has seen them drift out to 4.00 with bookmakers to win the Scottish Premier League.

Christian Dailly put Walter Smith's men in front but Chris Porter snatched a point for Motherwell with a second-half equaliser to put a massive dent in Rangers' title hopes .

Both sides have to complete the season with away games, but Celtic are in the box seat with a 3-point advantage and a superior goal difference.

Rangers play away at 10th placed St Mirren on Monday night, and then both sides complete the season with away games on Thursday 22nd May.

Celtic play at 4th Placed Dundee United, while Rangers are at 6th placed Aberdeen and will need their cross-town rivals to slip-up.

It means Celtic are just 2/9 at Bet365 while Rangers are 3/1 at Betfred.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Inter Milan win Serie A title - AC Milan settle for UEFA Cup

Parma 0-2 Inter Milan

Inter Milan won Serie A following a 2-0 defeat of Parma thanks to two goals from Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Inter needed to match any result that rivals AS Roma achieved and an early Roma goal seemed to put Inter were under pressure as they struggled to break down Parma.

But Ibrahimovic's goal after 62 minutes regained the initiative and his second after 79 minutes made certain of a third straight league title.

Catania 1-1 AS Roma

Roma conceded a late equaliser as they drew 1-1 in Sicily, after hearing that Inter had won in Parma

The results saved Catania, who had looked like they would be relegated Roma when they allowed Mirko Vucinic to give the capital side an eighth-minute lead.

But the Sicilians earned the point which preserved their top flight status thanks to an 95th-minute goal from Jorge Martinez.

This late goal condemned both Parma and Empoli to relegation.

Torino 0-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina claimed the fourth Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at Torino, thanks to a single goal in the 75th minute through Pablo Osvaldo's bicycle kick.

It was enough to prevserve Fiorentina's 2-point advantage over AC milan and secure 4th place.

AC Milan 4-1 Udinese

AC Milan did their best at the San Siro, beating Udinese 4-1, but multiple slip-ups earlier in the season were to prove costly.

The home side had actually fallen behind when Giandomenico Mesto put Udinese ahead in the 32nd minute. Alexandre Pato equalised three minutes into the second half and Filippo Inzaghi put Milan ahead after 59 minutes.

Goals from Cafu (79) and Clarence Seedorf (88) made sure of a win - but it had little effect on the final standings.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Man City into Uefa Cup via "fair play".

Manchester City will play in next season's Uefa Cup after claiming a place via the Premier League's fair play table.

England were awarded an extra place in the tournament after the Premier League came top of Uefa's fair play rankings - which also includes a component for "positive play".

Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City side actually finished sixth in the Premier League fair play table, but all the sides above them had already qualified for Europe.

City will now be placed in the the Uefa Cup first qualifying round stage which starts in July.

Manager Sven Eriksson has been quoted on the clubs website as saying "It's like the dream came true - our dream to play in Europe has been strong all season. It's a confirmation that we are a good team, but also a team that behaves well on the pitch."

"It's a step in the right direction because the target for this club in the future is to play in the Champions League, and the Uefa Cup is a very good school to learn about European football."

City, who finished in ninth place in the league table, qualified for the Uefa Cup on the same basis in 2003.

The fair play system awards points based on criteria including respect for opponents and the referee, positive play as well as the number of yellow and red cards received.

City will not be able to host the first qualifying round tie at Eastlands as the pitch is due to be relaid once a Bon Jovi concert has taken place on 22 June.

Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium, which usually plays host to rugby league in the summer, has been mentioned as a possible alternative.

The draw for the first qualifying round will be made on 30 June, with City placed in the Northern section.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ESP : Barcelona 2-3 Mallorca - Barca blow it again!

Yet another upset at the Camp Nou as Barcelona throw away a 2-0 lead to lose 2-3 at home to Mallorca.

Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o scored for a 2 goal lead for the home side before Mallorca hit back with goals from Valero, Webo and (deep into injuury time) a winner from Guiza.

Watch all the goals in the following videos - English commentary this time ...

Barcelona 2 - 3 Mallorca
17 [1 - 0] T. Henry
56 [2 - 0] S. Eto'o
67 [2 - 1] B. Valero
70 [2 - 2] P. Webo
90 [2 - 3] D. Guiza

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fulham's great escape from relegation

Fulham kept their Premier League status on goal difference after they claimed a 1-0 win over FA Cup finalists Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

A header from Danny Murphy from a Jimmy Bullard free-kick in the 76th minute was enough to give them victory over Harry Redknapp's side.

Reading finished their campaign with a 4-0 win over Derby at Pride Park but thanks to Murphy it was not enough and they will join the Rams in the Championship next season.

James Harper opened the scoring in the 15th minute before Dave Kitson, Kevin Doyle and Leroy Lita also scored for the Royals but it wasn't enough with Reading finishing 3 goals short of safety.

Birmingham City were also relegated despite a 4-1 home win over Blackburn.

Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel fumbled David Murphy's 31st-minute strike from 30 yards out which gave Birmingham the lead.

Morten Gamst Pedersen equalised three minutes after the break before Cameron Jerome scored twice and thenan injury-time header from Fabrice Muamba earned a big win - on a sad day for the Blues.

Inter Milan held by Siena to send title race to final weekend

Inter Milan again missed the chance to retain their Serie A title when they were held 2-2 at home by Siena on Sunday with Marco Materazzi having a penalty saved.

Second-placed AS Roma beat Atalanta 2-1 to cut the gap to one point with one round of matches remaining next weekend.

Livorno were relegated after a 1-0 defeat at home to Torino.

Fiorentina beat relegation-threatened Parma 3-1 to move into fourth spot and the final Champions league qualifying place after AC Milan lost 3-1 at Napoli and now two points behind with a game left.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

EPL : Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal

With little at stake for either side other than pride, both sets of fans arrived for a relaxed end of season afternoon, and that atmosphere was reflected on the pitch.

Theo Walcott handed Arsene Wenger a winning finish to the season with the only goal at Sunderland.

The England Under-21 international fired home from Gilberto's 24th-minute pass to claim the points as the Black Cats fought them all the way to the whistle.

In truth, had the Gunners been more clinical in front of goal, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Gilberto both passing up good opportunities, they might have won more comfortably.

However, they were not (as usual this season) and the Wearsiders kept them at full-stretch to the end with Roy O'Donovan going close and Michael Chopra seeing appeals for a late penalty waved away.

In the event, one goal was enough for Arsenal to cement their position in third place as Roy Keane's men ended a tough campaign with a home defeat, but a spirited display which was warmly applauded by a sell-out crowd of 47,802.

Sunderland 0 - 1 Arsenal
24 [0 - 1] T. Walcott

(Theo Walcott's goal only - sorry)

EPL : Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool

Andriy Voronin opened the scoring at White Hart Lane as Liverpool ended their season on a high, while Spurs season fizzled to the disappointing conclusion as it has done since winning the Carling Cup.

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres wrapped up victory at Tottenham with his 24th goal of the season better Ruud van Nistelrooy's first season total when he arrived at Manchester United.

Both managers will want to improve their respective teams league performances with Ramos wanting to gatecrash the top four with Spurs, while Benitez wants a title challenge rather than playing in end-of-season sideshows when the main events of the day are elsewhere.

Liverpool side finish the season on the 4th place while the Spurs can be found in mid-table in 11th place.

Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 2 Liverpool

69 [0 - 1] A. Voronin
74 [0 - 2] F. Torres

EPL : Middlesbrough 8-1 Man City - so long Sven !

Sven-Goran Eriksson's anticipated final match in charge of Manchester City ended in humiliating fashion as his 10-man side lost 8-1 at Middlesbrough.

The former England boss has guided the club to ninth in the Barclays Premier League and a likely place in the UEFA Cup via the Fair Play League but that does not appear enough to save his job.

Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra has expressed his disappointment with the final outcome of Eriksson's 10 months in charge and the former Thai Prime Minister is fully expected to dispense with the Swede's services sooner rather than later.

That is much to the disgust of City's supporters, who chanted their support for the Swede throughout the match.

The hosts took the lead in the 16th minute when Tuncay raced on to a long ball and, as he entered the penalty area, he accidentally caught Dunne's leg as the defender tried to get back. The City captain was harshly dismissed by referee Phil Dowd and Stewart Downing clinically dispatched the penalty.

Later on in the first half Rochemback went forward, and he picked out compatriot Afonso Alves who slotted home left-footed in the 37th minute.

Downing scored again in the 57th minute when, after Boateng's right-wing cross was knocked on, he smashed a superb volley with the outside of his left foot inside the far post to end the match as a contest.

Two minutes later, Afonso Alves made it 4-0 when he raced on to Arca's through-ball to stab past Isaksson. Chris Riggott then had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside as Boro threatened to run riot.

City's luck was obviously not in as, in the 70th minute, Boro grabbed a fifth when Johnson's long-range shot was deflected past Isaksson.

Rochemback made it 6-0 with a 30-yard free-kick 10 minutes from time and substitute Aliadiere fired home the seventh in the 85th minute.

Elano scored a consolation before Afonso Alves completed his hat-trick.

Middlesbrough 8 - 1 Manchester City

15 R. Dunne (red card Man City)
16 [1 - 0] S. Downing (penalty kick)
37 [2 - 0] A. Alves
58 [3 - 0] S. Downing
60 [4 - 0] A. Alves
70 [5 - 0] A. Johnson
80 [6 - 0] F. Rochemback
85 [7 - 0] J. Aliadiere
87 [7 - 1] E. Blumer
90 [8 - 1] A. Alves

EPL : Chelsea 1-1 Bolton - disappointment and injury gives Chelsea the blues

The afternoon began in hope for Chelsea but ended in disappointment for Chelsea as they failed to snatch the Premier league title.

Andriy Shevchenko's second-half strike was cancelled out by Kevin Davies' added-time leveller but the Blues were also left reeling from the loss of captain John Terry with shoulder injury in the first half.

The England defender was stretchered off after clashing with team-mate Petr Cech and Bolton striker Davies and could be out of next week's Champions League final against Manchester United in Moscow.

The Blues captain received lengthy treatment on the pitch before he was replaced by right-back Juliano Belletti and early reports suggested he had partially dislocated his shoulder.

But in the seventh minute, the title-chasers should have gone in front when Michael Ballack's low cross from the left found Didier Drogba at the far post - but he shot high and wide of the target.

Chelsea continued to push for an opening goal but found Bolton a tough test and Matthew Taylor underlined the threat the visitors posed at the other end when he fired a 30-yard drive just wide of Cech's left-hand upright.

The news of Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty at Wigan left the home fans subdued and Terry's loss had clearly unsettled Avram Grant's side. Chelsea's frustration was growing but Bolton's rearguard refused to buckle.

In an effort to re-ignite their title push, Grant replaced Claude Makelele with Shevchenko at the start of the second half.

The move was clearly designed to put more pressure on the Bolton defence and in the 46th minute Florent Malouda almost broke the deadlock. The French winger let fly with a volley from fully 25-yards which Al Habsi tipped against the crossbar.

Seconds later, Joe Cole got to the touchline and pulled the back for Malouda to try his luck again but this time his effort was deflected to safety.

The deadlock was finally broken moments when Lampard's shot was turned home by the alert substitute Shevchenko.

Bolton almost grabbed an equaliser when a Davies header came down off the crossbar and Ashley Cole cleared the ball off the line after it hit Stelios Giannakopoulos.

But the Chelsea fans realised it was not going to be their day when news of United's second goal from Ryan Giggs spread around the stadium.

And disaappintment was complete in the dying seconds when Taylor shot through a crowded area to level the scores and end Chelsea's hopes for good.

Chelsea 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
62 [1 - 0] A. Shevchenko
90 [1 - 1] K. Davies

Chelsea 1-1 Bolton Wanderers

EPL : Manchester Utd win at Wigan to claim title

A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and a late goal from Ryan Giggs gave Manchester United a 2-0 victory over Wigan at the JJB Stadium to claim the Premier League title.

The Portuguses winger scored his 31st league goal to help Sir Alex Ferguson's side lift their 17th league title which left them just one behind Liverpool's haul of 18.

United were handed an opportunity to break the deadlock after Emmerson Boyce brought down Wayne Rooney in the penalty area and referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot.

Ronaldo stepped up to take the 33rd-minute spot-kick and calmly side footed the ball past goalkeeper Chris Kirkland who dived the wrong way.

Giggs, on as a substitute to equal Sir Bobby Charlton's record of 758 appearances for the club, added a second for United in the 80th minute.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United 0-2

Friday, May 09, 2008

Blatter Bigotry blasted as EU votes against foreign quotas

The European parliament dealt a blow to the misguided rants of Fifa president Sepp Blatter who planned plans to curb the number of "foreigners" at clubs.

MEPs overwhelmingly rejected by 518 votes to 49 Blatter's "6+5 rule", which tried to restrict a club to no more than five foreign players to start a match.

The European parliment resolution said "The parliament calls on the member states and sports associations not to introduce new rules that create direct discrimination based on nationality, such as Fifa's 6+5".

"It calls on the Commission to recognise the legality of measures favouring the promotion of players who have come through training schemes, such as a minimum number of locally trained players, irrespective of their nationality."

Ivo Belet, the Belgian MEP and author of the parliament's report on the future of professional football, told the assembly: "Unfortunately the 6+5 rule is not compatible with the free movement of persons in the EU. The European Treaty is very clear on this point - discrimination on the basis of nationality is not allowed and this also counts for football."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

ManYoo and Chelsea both getting action on title odds

It seems that it's a bit of a fan-fest this week as the top prices on both Manchester United and Chelsea are being snapped up by loyal fans.

Chelsea's win over Newcastle on Monday means that it will all go down to the final day of the season, and the title equation is quite simple ... Chelsea need to get more points on the final day than United.

Chelsea are priced at 4/1 (5.00) to win the title - and that price is being hit quite mard by some punters as they do the maths and work out the real chances of a Chelsea win.

Meanwhile Manchester United were priced at 1/4 (1.25), but bookmakers have been swamped and now the best price you can get is a 1/5 (1.20) quote.

So which price do I think is best? In order to answer that we need to make some basic assumptions about the two games - and come up with some match estimates.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United
Wigan have actually been quite strong at the JJB recently. They have a 8-5-5 home record and are unbeaten in their last SEVEN home games.

United are hardly all-conquering when travelling - at just 9-5-4 in their 18 away games this season. But United have won their fxitures here at the JJB in the last two seasons 2-1, and 3-1.

Away games are hard to win - even Manchester United have won just half of their road fixtures so far and the 1.25 price on an away win speak volumes for bookmaker hype and spin - trying to sell awful odds to legions of fans with red-tinted glasses.

If this were a game with nothing on it then I'd have this game at 21%-24%-55% estimate, but United will be absolutely desperate - so I'll push it out to 13%-17%-70% - but no more.

Chelsea vs Bolton Wanderers
Chelsea don't lose league games at home, but they do draw a lot going 12-7-0 last season and 12-6-0 this season, and Bolton have avoided defeat in 3 of their last 4 trips to Stamford Bridge too.

Still Bolton are just 2-4-12 this season, and are safe from relegation now, so you must expect the home side to have far more motivation.

I'd make this game a 80%-13%-7% chance, with a Chelsea victory the mostly likely result by a long chalk.

The Betting Verdict
From here it's simple - just calculate the percentage likelihood of Chelsea getting moe points than ManYoo in the final game - and we should have our "fair odds".

The chances are :
Chelsea win (80%) * Man United draw or loss (30%) = 24%
Chelsea draw (13%) * Man United loss (13%) = 1.7%

So I think that Chelsea have a total 25.7% chance of the title (fair odds 3.89) while Manchester United have a 74.3% chance of winning the league (fair odds 1.34).

So Manchester United are strong favourites to win the league, but given the current prices - I'd put my tenner on Chelsea @ 5.00

Manchester United @ 1.20 at Centrebet
Chelsea @ 5.00 at Betsson
See all the Live Premier League Betting Odds at BookieLabrat.

Man City being turned into a Thai toy for owner

Manchester City have reportedly offered Luiz Felipe Scolari the managers job at Eastlands - but have told him he must accept before the European Championships.

Various newspapers report that the current Portugal coach has been offered a contract worth around £3million a year to take over from Sven Goran Eriksson, who appears certain to be sacked at the end of the season - after Sven led City to their best league finish in 20 years !!

Both The Times and The Independent report that Thaksin Shinawatra has insisted that Scolari gives City an answer before Euro 2008 - but understandably Scolari is reluctant to do so, knowing that a winning performance could attract plenty of other attention.

Meanwhile Manchester City will arrive in Thailand on May 14 to open a club store and hold a clinic before playing against Thailand Premier All-Stars on May 17. A match with a South China Invitation XI follows in Hong Kong on May 22.

Who knows who will be in charge then ... this Shinawatra chap is rapidly turning things into a farce .. unfortunately I expect City to go backwards in 2008-09

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Betting in Spain

A spreadsheet test for Wednesday evening as there are 6 games in Spain where the home side is the favoured result (between 40-50%) but not strong enough to be a likely pick - and they are also priced at over 100% value.

Real Madrid to beat Barcelona @ 2.40 = 134%
Valencia to beat Zaragoza @ 2.10 = 107%
Real Murcia to beat Bilbao @ 3.20 = 141%
Mallorca to beat Osasuna @ 2.20 = 108%
Real Betis to beat Valladolid @ 2.30 = 117%
Santander to beat Sevilla @ 2.65 = 130%

All picks are priced above evens so we will need three home wins in order to make a profit. Note that I'm not saying that they all win - I'm relying on numbers through all SIX games here to make a profit.

Average price calculations suggest around a 22% yield return - by getting best prices. If you settle for lessor odds then you lower the yield.

Will the home sides deliver for us on Wednesday night?

Gooners Betting Spreadsheet output
And get Live Spanish Football Betting Odds

Russia gives Champioins League fans a VISA waiver

Russia has waived normal visa requirements for a 72-hour period for football fans with a ticket for the Champions League final in Moscow.

Michel Platini, president of European football's governing body Uefa, has thanked the Russian government for an "unprecedented gesture".

Supporters will need to present a valid match ticket, a valid passport, and a completed immigration form upon arrival in Russia and the visa exemption will apply between 19 and 23 May.

Anyone overstaying the 72-hour entry period will then have to pay the fee for a regular visa when leaving the country.

The move will alleviate a huge burden on the Russian National Tourist Office in London, which has been handling visas on behalf of the Russian Embassy in Britain for the Champions League final.

More than 42,000 Chelsea and Manchester United fans are set to attend the match at the the Luzhniki Stadium on 21 May.

Fans without a ticket, hoping to travel independently, should be able to have their visas processed in plenty of time - though the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised supporters not to travel "if they do not have a ticket or accommodation beforehand".

Both clubs have been given 21,000 tickets each for the final at the Luzhniki Stadium, where the capacity is being set specifically at 69,500.

Liverpool get approval for new stadium - to open in 2011

Liverpool have been given the go-ahead for their new 60,000-seater stadium by the planning committe of the local council.

The new stadium to be built in Stanley Park is scheduled to open in August 2011 and will feature an 18,500-seat single tier stand for the Kop, which holds Liverpool's most vocal supporters. The current Kop seats 13,500.

The design is the third version of the plan. The original plans were discarded when Tom Hicks and his now-estranged business partner George Gillett were unimpressed by the design they inherited when they bought the club last year, and the second, more ambitious, scheme had to be scaled down due to rising costs.

In January the American sports tycoons completed a £350m refinancing package on the loan used to purchase the club and £60m was earmarked for the stadium. But Hicks, whose feud with Gillett has plunged the club into turmoil, said last month that he was still working with investment bank Merrill Lynch on raising the finances.

In recent years Liverpool have been left behind financially as rivals Manchester United expanded Old Trafford to seat 76,000 and Arsenal moved from 38,000-seat Highbury into 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium in July 2006.

Builing work on the new stadium will not begin on the project before September 2008.

Manchester Utd losing it off the pitch

Manchester United are losing 160,000 pounds a day!
Manchester United will probably win probable second successive Premier League title and will take part in a Champions League final, but the club's accounts show a significantly bleaker picture of the club's finances.

Under the ownership of the Florida-based Glazer family, all the borrowings have been loaded onto ManYoo PLC and total loans now stand at a massive £666m by far the highest of any English football club, ever.

The total owed to all creditors, including the banks, was up to £764m and includes £56m that United owe to other clubs in transfer fee instalments on players Sir Alex Ferguson has signed.

When the United headline results were announced back in January, it was said that it produced record income of £210m and operating profits of £75m. But the full accounts show, that even though United made a further £11m profit from buying and selling players, the interest and other accounting provisions pushed United into recording an overall loss of £58m for the year!

The total interest payable by the club on its borrowings was £81m, although only £42m was actually paid. The rest is allowed to roll up until the whole amount has to be repaid in 2016, or, alternatively, until the Glazers can refinance it.

A total of £152m is currently owed to hedge funds, at a staggering 14.25% interest a year - £22m of that from 2007-08 alone. Last year the Glazers tried to refinance but were unable to strike a deal with financial institutions, and a spokesman acknowledged that the credit crunch is making it more difficult now.

Before the Glazer family's 2005 takeover, United prided itself on being the only Premier League club regularly to make a significant profit, to have cash in the bank and, unlike all the others, no debts.

The accounts also reveal that by far the highest proportion of income, £92.5m, is still generated on home match days, and although the club has announced more modest ticket price rises for next season than for the previous two, supporters groups continue to protest that they are paying the debts of a takeover they opposed.

"It is outrageous that supporters are paying the huge interest on these borrowings, which are worrying for the club's future," said Sean Bones of the Manchester United Supporters Trust. "Our money is pouring out to pay the Glazers, while they have not put a penny into the club."

A spokesman for the Glazer family pointed to the club's success on the field, and in generating income off it, as evidence of the family's competent management. "The family continue to run United as a business," he said. "Their model is to encourage success on the pitch by backing Sir Alex Ferguson, and to grow revenues off it. The interest payments are more than covered by the cash generated."

This amount of debt is incredible, the numbers being bandied about are like telephone numbers, and when you consider that Arsenal's stadium cost £360m to purchase all the land and construct then the total debt of £764m at United is obviously not backed by physical assets.

This could all end in tears if the TV money stops coming in ...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Football Association look in Accrington v Bury betting pattern

The Football Association have announced they will look into the Accrington V Bury game after it emerged some bookmakers stopped taking bets on the Coca-Cola League Two clash on Friday after a raft of bets on the Shakers to win.

We also had a punter highlight this game early on Friday evening on our forum that we share with and one punter working in the industry was able to confirm that Will Hill had suspended betting.

Subsequently both William Hill and Coral suspended betting markets on the game, while Betfair also reported unusually high amounts being placed on the clash.

Andy Bishop scored both goals for the visitors in Saturday's clash, and Accrington boss John Coleman refuted allegations that some of his players had been out on a stag party the night before the game.

After the loss, he said: "It's rubbish. There were rumours flying around about a stag do but it is not true. "We kicked into the game and gave our very best for 90 minutes."

The FA's director of communications Adrian Bevington revealed they would be speaking to the bookmakers over the allegations. He said: "This was a very unusual betting pattern - if the allegations are true. We were made aware of the situation on Friday.

"We will look very closely at the information Betfair and other bookmakers provide and take any subsequent action with the Football League and the two clubs concerned."

Euro2008 Referees and pay levels announced.

UEFA said the 12 referees, who will be matched with assistants from each of their own countries, had been selected based on their good performances in European matches.

Referees will be paid 10,000 euros for every match at which they officiate with their assistants receiving 5,000 euros.

That corresponds to an increase of almost 60 percent compared with Euro 2004 where the officials received the same amount but in Swiss francs.

List of 12 Euro 2008 referees :
Konrad Plautz (Austria)
Frank de Bleeckere (Belgium)
Howard Webb (England)
Herbert Fandel (Germany)
Kyros Vassaras (Greece)
Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Pieter Vink (Netherlands)
Tom Henning Ovrebo (Norway)
Lubos Michel (Slovakia)
Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)
Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden)
Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Italy Silly Season - Fixes or Rumour

We are getting towards the end of the Serie A season - and relegation looms in Italy making the situation rife for plenty of rumours about match-fixing.

There were plenty of strange low value prices today - and plenty of high value in Serie A. Of course we're all aware that Parma won today at a very low price - and everyone has jumped on the fix bandwagon again - was that really the case?

Let's take a look at a selection of games in Italy, and work out what would have happened if you'd backed the "fix" or taken the value.

Parma v Genoa (1.48 - 8.00)
This was picked as a close game by the betting spreadsheet, but the fixers were sure that Parma would win and so the 1.48 price on the home side was very, very low - unexplainable in normal terms. Parma were 5-6-5 at home this season, Genoa 5-5-6 away.

Parma won 1-0 and the FIXERS claim a win but was a home win here really a big surprise?!

Torino V Napoli (1.40 - 10.00)
Torino in relegation trouble and Napoli very safely in midtable. Torino favoured slightly by the sheet at home (0.36 of a goal) mainly due to Napoli's woeful 3-4-11 away record.

However the 1.40 on Torino to win is about 56% of fair and surely this is another "fix"? Torino do 2-1 so the FIXERS WIN. But was it proof of corruption or a desperate home team?

Siena v Juventus (8.40 - 1.57)
Juventus in 3rd assumed to have referee backing and will win at Siena. The home side are priced at a staggering 227% of correct value as they are estimated to win this game 27% of the time by the sheet.

The result is that Siena win 1-0. FIXERS LOSE. Value punters win big.

Atlanta v Livorno (3.25 - 2.35)

Atlanta by far the better side, and rated 0.66 of a goal favourite by the sheet are somehow considered outsiders at home to bottom placed Livorno who will win via a fix?.

Atlanta win 3-2. FIXERS LOSE

There were two other games that did provide upsets of sorts - where they were away teams winning at prices over 4.00+ that never got a rumour of a "fix".

Looking at the form lines, it was very hard to pick the results, and based on the the price no-one seemed to suspect a fix. But the fact that they occured shows how results can vary in football especially at the tail end of a season.

Catania v Reggina (2.10 - 4.40)
A real relegation battle and lowly Reggina priced a low 53% of fair value. But Reggina grab a vital 2-1 away win at a 4.40 price - where were the fix rumours about this game then?

Lazio v Palermo (2.50 - 4.00)

Palermo came into the game 3 points ahead, but without a win in their last six away games. Lazio picked to win based on home form and cruised up 1-0 until the last 10 minutes when Palermo scored twice to win. A fix?

The upshot is that if you had beleive in the two successful fixes then you did win - and make profits on the home wins. Of course you'd have had to really lump on in order to make good money - and also avoid the Juventus game.

Lets say you believe so wager double stakes (200 euros) on each of the two correct "fixed" games then here is how the money falls :
= 400 euros bet / 580 euros returned and a profit of 180 euros.

A good profit. However if you'd simply backed the four value sides (Napoli, Genoa, Atlanta and Siena) at normal level stakes of 100 euros then :
= 400 euros bet and two wins for 1265 euros returned for a profit of 865 euros !!!

If every strange result is a fix - why did no-one seem to get on the upset wins for Reggina and Palermo who surprised at prices of over 4.00?

So are there fixes in Serie A that the public can get on? Or aew they simply wildfire internet rumours based on a few strange results?

I'm still not convinced.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

EPL Relegation battle will go to the final day.

Fulham have climbed out of the drop zone for the first time this year setting up a tense final day for three clubs hovering around the relegation zone.

Fulham who fought back from 2-0 behind to beat Manchester City 3-2 last week, made it three wins out of four by beating fellow relegation strugglers Birmingham 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

That result, helped by goals from strikers Brian McBride and Erik Nevland, left Birmingham second bottom and saw Reading slip into the bottom three after they lost 1-0 at home to Spurs.

Bolton virtually assured themselves of Premier League football again next season by beating Roy Keane's men 2-0 thanks to El-Hadji Diouf's first-half strike and an own goal from Daryl Murphy late on.

It means they have a +11 superior goal difference to third-bottom Reading, which should be enough to survive even though although Bolton travel to Chelsea on the final day of the season while Reading go to hapless Derby.

It would take a huge swing for Bolton to go down and Boylesports make them a massive 300/1 for final day relegation.

Birmingham are the hot 1.17 favourites (at Bet365) to return to the Championship as they host Blackburn on the final day even though they have the best goal difference.

Fulham travel to Portsmouth who will have one eye on the FA Cup final six days later and a win will almost certainly guarantee sruvival - they're priced at 1.62 at Paddy Power.

Reading are at Derby (as mentioned), but with a inferior goal difference of six goals they'll either need Fulham to slip up - or a huge win over the Rams in order to survive. Reading are 1.62 for the drop at Bet365.

Live Premier League betting Odds

Real Madrid can win league title against Osasuna

The champagne was temporarily put on ice at the Bernabeu after Villarreal beat Real Betis last week, but this weekend the destination of the league title is in Real Madrid's hands.

Real Madrid will collect their 31st Spanish championship if Villarreal fail to beat Getafe on Sunday or they win their match at Osasuna.

Real's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder is confident the team will not have to wait any longer to celebrate the title.

"I want to win the league against Osasuna and I'm sure we are going to do it" he said earlier this week on Spanish TV. "Villarreal aren't going to slip up but neither are we and so we will be champions this weekend."

Osasuna, however, have plenty to play for and are likely to prove difficult opponents. They are just two points above the relegation zone and cannot afford to lose any points if they are to avoid the drop.

Goalkeeper Ricardo will be able to play after his red card against Valencia was overturned on appeal, but centre forward Dady is a doubt.

Real are likely to be strengthened by the return of Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who should get a run after a six-week absence following ankle surgery, but playmaker Guti is a doubt because of a strained knee ligament.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Liverpool make early bid for Gareth Barry

Liverpool's Rafa Benitez has launched a bid to sign Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry.

There has been plenty of speculation linking Liverpool with a move for Barry recently, and the Reds have now formally contacted Villa with an opening bid for the England midfielder.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill will probably not accept the offer for his club captain, who has two years to run of his current contract and has been an instrumental figure in his side's impressive Premier League campaign, but O'Neill has confirmed the offer, with Liverpool presenting "a mish-mash of players" in exchange for Barry.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez is determined to pair Barry in midfield with his England team-mate Steven Gerrard and is expected to make significant squad changes ahead of next season. Barry, who celebrates the 10th anniversary of his Villa debut next week, has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football and would come close to doubling his weekly wages of £40,000 with a move to Anfield.

O'Neill is thought to have already made plans for Barry's departure with Chelsea's Steven Sidwell lined up as his replacement while Liverpool striker Peter Crouch would most likely represent part of any swap deal with Barry.

A bid of £10m had been mentioned, but O'Neill values Barry higher than that price and is understood to be looking for a package involving £8m plus former Villa striker Crouch.

Barry recently said that he has to adopt a "selfish" approach in his desire to make the most his footballing career and now may make his final home appearance for Villa against Wigan tomorrow clocking up almost almost 400 appearances over 10 years.

Zenit blast four past Bayern Munich to reach final

Zenit St. Petersburg overcame a defensive crisis to thrash Bayern Munich 4-0 in their UEFA Cup semi-final second leg and reaching their first European final.

Zenit, without the suspended Andrei Arshavin, Radek Sirl and Fernando Ricksen, as well as Nicolas Lombaerts and Kim Dong Jin through injury, had only two available defenders – Ivica Križanac and Aleksandr Anyukov. These were joined at the back by Roman Shirokov, a recent convert to the centre-half position, and 38-year-old Olexandr Gorshkov, a makeshift left-back.

But the Russian champions combined resolute defending with lethal finishing, to leave Bayern wondering what exactly had hit them after a contest in which the territorial advantage was the Germans.

Goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Konstantin Zyrianov set Zenit on their way in the first half, before Victor Fayzulin and Pogrebnyak then consigned Bayern to a painful defeat.

Zenit St. Petersburg 4 - 0 Bayern Munich
04 [1 - 0] P. Pogrebnyak
39 [2 - 0] K. Zyrianov
53 [3 - 0] V. Fayzulin
73 [4 - 0] P. Pogrebnyak


See all four goals from Zenit St Petersburg v Bayern Munich

Rangers are in the UEFA Cup final after penalty shoot-out victory

Nacho Novo hit the winning penalty as Rangers booked a place in the UEFA Cup final on penalties after a second scoreless draw.

Rangers were being dominated by ACF Fiorentina for much of the preceding 120 minutes and did not have a shot in anger until the 78th minute as the hosts piled forward but were somehow unable to find the breakthrough.

After 180 scoreless minutes over two legs, extra time came and then penalties, and when Barry Ferguson had the first attempt saved it looked like Rangers lack of attacking ambition would haunt them.

Yet Neil Alexander saved from Fabio Liverani and then Christian Vieri hit his penalty high over the crossbar, allowing Novo to seal an unlikely place in the final.

See highlights of the game and the penalty shootout.