Norwich Must Halt Slide

Of all the team’s in the Championship there are a significant number whose fans will be less than pleased with their form at the moment. Blackpool, for instance, are odds on favourites in the Championship betting to be relegated and currently sit 10 points from safety. Wigan Athletic may have made a controversial choice to replace Uwe Rosler as manager but they have seen little improvement on the field, and Brighton look to be in freefall.

All is not Well

Given the sheer number of poor teams in the Championship it would be easy to ignore the plight of Norwich City who, with Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Reading, have now lost three of their last four games. Indeed the Canaries have only picked up one win in their last 10 games- a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers back in October- and the response at Carrow Road to Saturday’s performance suggests that all is not well at the club.

Crowd Abuse

Goalkeeper John Ruddy, once an England squad man, was reportedly the target of abuse from the Norwich City boo boys following a blunder which led to Reading’s second goal, and a risky drop which almost sneaked into the net. This verbal battering was then followed up with a barrage on Twitter after he had expressed his disappointment at the sarcastic nature of some of the second half cheers from the home fans. Chief Executive David McNally was also said to have been subject to abuse from a section of the home support following the final whistle.

Restless Supporters

Having been relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season hopes would have been high of a quick return to the top flight and, having kept hold of a number of their key assets, it is understandable that the Carrow Road faithful might be getting a little restless. This restlessness has no doubt been added to by the fact that the Canaries went on an eight game unbeaten run in the league earlier in the season and they were looking like a great bet for promotion. After the dip in form since September Neil Adams’ men now look unlikely to finish anywhere above mid-table.

Wigan Chance

Football fans are not generally known for their pragmatism and gracious acceptance of being second best- particularly not when their team was only narrowly relegated from the Premier League the previous season. Whilst a little dose of realism might not do the Norwich supporters any harm they have every right to expect better from their team and they know that, just as easily as City have fallen down the table, they could climb back up it. The next chance for Norwich to end their poor run of form comes on Saturday when they travel to Wigan Athletic.

Malky Mackay Still Has Golden Touch

Having sacked Uwe Rosler following a disappointing 3-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic knew that they had to make the right call if they were to avert the possibility of relegation from the Championship. Off-the-field, questions remain about whether or not appointing Malky Mackay, who courted controversy after allegedly sending sexist, racist and homophobic text messages, was the right decision. On the field, however, the Latics hard earned point at the weekend against Middlesbrougha team highly fancied for success by Blue Square – would suggest that the Scot could be the right call.

Golden Touch
Mackay has extensive experience at Championship level having taken Cardiff City up from the division in to the Premier League two seasons ago and his golden touch seemed still to be in evidence when Shaun Maloney opened the scoring with a free kick. Having opted to make several changes to the side most recently put out by Rosler, Wigan looked more comfortable going forward and the likes of midfielder Chris McCann, who returned to the side after injury, created chances that could have won the game for the home side. As it was, the home fans at the DW were forced to settle for a point when Patrick Bamford equalised.

Light at the End of the Tunnel
Still with only one league win since August, Wigan’s position remains precarious and they need to convert more of their chances, but there are real positive signs for their fans. Taking a point from Middlesbrough, who are now unbeaten in five and are up in third place in the table, will give Mackay’s men real confidence. Next up for the Latics are Sheffield Wednesday, whose mean defence will take some real breaking down but, now just three points off Leeds United in 16th place, Wigan will be able to see light at the end of the tunnel and know just how much a vital win would be worth.

With promotion, could Burnley stay in the Premier League?

Burnley’s one, and so far only foray into the Premier League came in the 2009-10 season but sadly for Clarets fans, the club were immediately relegated and haven’t returned since. In this current campaign, promotion looks assured but are Sean Dyche’s side better equipped to survive in the top flight this time around?

It’s been an impressive season in the Championship and with just seven games to go, Dyche’s men have built up a healthy, nine point lead over third placed QPR. But why have the side been so successful and what areas will Dyche need to address ahead of 2014-15’s likely Premiership campaign?

Defence

Brian ‘The Beast’ Jensen was something of a cult figure at Turf Moor but as Burnley’s keeper in 2009-10, opposition players targeted a perceived lack of mobility. That may be a controversial assessment but in 2014-15, former England Under-21 stopper Tom Heaton shouldn’t have similar problems.

Heaton sits behind the meanest defence in the Championship and it’s likely that the manager will keep him at the club as they return to the Premier League. If Dyche seeks an experienced alternative, it’s been reported that Vito Mannone may be on his way out of Sunderland in the summer.

The Clarets have fielded a settled back four in Ben Mee, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff and the captain Jason Shackell. One of the issues is a lack of top flight experience and that may be one reason why Dyche has brought in the versatile Chris Baird on a short-term deal. If the former West Brom player impresses at Turf Moor, Baird could have a bigger role to play next season.

Midfield

24-year old Junior Stanislas does bring Premier League experience after spending three years at West Ham and his goal against Doncaster was his third of the campaign. Dean Marney had a brief spell at Spurs before being moved on to Hull and at 30, he will be desperate to prove he can compete in the top flight.

Scott Arfield has also been instrumental in Burnley’s rise up the Championship but unlike his midfield partners, the Scotland B international hasn’t been tested at the highest level. Along with the defence, this is another area where Dyche will feel he has to enter the transfer market.

Attack

In order to survive a campaign in the Premier League, Burnley must surely have to hold on to Danny Ings who has already been linked with a number of clubs. Fortunately for Dyche, Premier League managers seem reluctant to take a chance on players from the lower leagues after a number of notable failures including David Nugent and Connor Wickham, so it’s likely that the bigger sides will want to take a look at Ings in the top flight before deciding whether to make a move.

The 21-year old has scored 20 times in 34 league games for the Clarets while striking up a potent partnership with Welsh international Sam Vokes who has 20 in 39. Dyche will want to keep both players in the side but with a lack of experienced cover, a summer signing seems almost certain.

A proven Premiers League player coming to the end of his career may be the best option for Burnley, with West Ham’s Carlton Cole one suggestion.

The Verdict

Malky Mackay’s purchases for Cardiff in the summer of 2012 saw him receive criticism and the sack from club owner Vincent Tan but Sean Dyche is unlikely to want, or need, similar wholesale changes.

There is a good quality core to the side and the players most likely to feature for Burnley next season are Heaton, Shackell, Stanislas, Marney, Vokes and Ings. All that’s needed are a few additions with Premier League experience.

Burnley are as short as 1.06 with Betfair to be promoted but one wonders if the odds on the Clarets staying up next season would be equally slim. Yet there is genuine potential in the current squad and if they are joined by some shrewd acquisitions, the club looks far better equipped to survive in the top flight.

About betting on the Championship

It would be fair to say that the Football League Championship does not attract the same degree of media attention as the Premiership, but it remains a very exciting and fiercely contested league. Indeed it could very easily be argued that the Championship is actually a more genuinely competitive league than its more illustrious counterpart, and so is much more exciting to bet on.After all, despite all of the hype which surrounds the Premier League, there are still ultimately only two or three teams that have a chance of winning it, whereas this is certainly not the case with the Championship.

It is not only the fans that the Championship provides great spectacle for, it is also a fascinating league for those interested in betting on the various issues, because it is much harder to predict them. Thus it could even be argued that for sports gamblers the Championship actually represents a step up in terms of challenge, requiring more detailed study of the form of the teams, in the same way that those interested in playing at an online casino often start off with games like the slots and progress onto those like poker that need more knowledge and skill. That’s not to say that slots games can offer fun and challenges – there are after all even football themed slots games around. Some casinos also offer sports bets, so we come a full circle.

To succeed in gambling on the Championship the single most important thing is to study the league looking at the form of individual teams, players, and the past history of results between any two teams in match you are considering wagering on. Although this is true for all types of football betting, it is particularly the case with the Championship, because it can be such a surprising league.

A 5-a-side player’s guide to watching Futsal

Last week saw the drawing of matches for the 24th FIFA Futsal World Cup. Although the UK team did not qualify this year the sport is rapidly getting more and more supporters in the country. This should not come as much of a surprise as many of us grow up on and around 5-a-side pitches. We play it at school or on the grass behind our house as kids and for many it is the gateway drug to actual football. A recent poll showed that as many as 1.25 million UK residents can still be found on 5-a-side pitches around the country on a weekly basis, and that number is rapidly growing.

As such it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the interest in Futsal is increasing as well. Although there are some slight differences between the two games, they are in its core game play practically the same. And although 5-a-side is not known anywhere but in the U.K. Futsal is rapidly gaining popularity as an international sport. We will explain some of the major differences.

The Teams
Both games use five players per team, one of which is the keeper. In 5-a-side the number of substitutes is limited, as it is in regular football. In Futsal however, teams use up to seven rolling substitutes, keeping the players in field relatively fresh and ensuring a high tempo throughout the game.

The Pitch
Traditional 5-a-side pitches are lined with rebound boards, ensuring the ball doesn’t leave play and because of this the game is practically continuous. Futsal however uses the same lines we know from Football and if the ball crosses the borders of the field it will be returned to play by a kick-in. Another major difference is that the Futsal field is slightly longer and wider than normal 5-a-side pitches. Its goals are squarer (2mx3m) than the hockey goals used by 5-a-side and the ball used is slightly smaller and has less bounce than a football.

The Rules
Unlike 5-a-side there is no height restriction on the ball, giving he players more options to escape confinement on the small field. Futsal players are also free to enter the penalty zones, something that is restricted to keepers in 5-a-side. But the rule that makes the biggest difference between the two games is the limitation of fouls.

In regular 5-a-side as in football the number of fouls made by a team is unlimited. In Futsal however, the number of fouls is limited to five per team each game. Every foul after the fifth results in an instant free kick from ten meters. Because of this players are very careful not to foul and even though the game is played on a small pitch collisions and physical contact between players are rare. The fancy footwork the game is famous for is a direct result of this rule.

If you like watching the play style of famous football players like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho give this year’s Futsal World Cup a watch. They developed their skills playing this small sided game. The first matches will be held on November 1st, but if you really want to watch an explosive match watch Argentina VS Italy on November 5th, or any game Brazil is in. Those matches are sure to impress. And who knows, you might like it so much you’ll find yourself explaining the rules to your mates next time you head down to the 5-a-side pitches next Sunday.

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