Pre-season is well and truly underway across Europe and with a host of matches pencilled in for Wednesday evening, we take a look at some of the most eye-catching fixtures. Premier League sides Manchester United, Fulham, Tottenham and Southampton are all in action, while Bolton Wanderers head north of the border to face Ayr United.
So without further ado, here are some quickfire tips for tonight’s main friendly fixtures:
Manchester United have not played since the thrilling final day of the Premier League season, when they were pipped to the title on goal difference in dramatic fashion by bitter rivals Manchester City.
The Red Devils commence their build-up for the new campaign with a tour of South Africa, where AmaZulu are their first opponents. Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, their new signing from Borussia Dortmund, is in line to make his debut, while fellow summer recruit Nick Powell could feature too.
While United have plenty of firepower and should breach the hosts’ modest rearguard, their lack of defensive cover could see them concede too. Six of United’s seven games in last summer’s pre-season featured four or more goals, so a repeat here at looks to be the way to go.
When these two met in the fifth round of last year’s FA Cup, Stevenage famously held their more illustrious opponents to a goalless draw before bowing out with a spirited 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane.
Spurs will not be able to call upon a recognised senior striker for this clash as Jermain Defoe is enjoying an extended break following Euro 2012, while Emmanuel Adebayor’s proposed transfer from Man City is yet to be completed and Harry Kane is unavailable following England U19 duty.
In addition, this will be Spurs’ first pre-season outing and only Stevenage’s second, so there could be some heavy legs and plenty of substitutions. With these two factors in mind, it could be worth backing under 2.5 goals in the game at a decent-looking 6/5.
Southampton’s long-awaited return to the top flight commenced in earnest last weekend as they were beaten 1-0 by Anderlecht and drew 1-1 with Arsenal in the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup at St Mary’s.
The two 45-minute games were a decent work-out before the Saints travelled to France for their pre-season training camp and boss Nigel Adkins will presumably select a strong line-up for this clash.
However, with the Swiss outfit further along in their preparations – their first competitive match is on August 8th, while Southampton open against Manchester City ten days later – backing a win for Rickie Lambert and company holds no real appeal at the price on offer.
Let’s be honest, Fulham are renowned for their shocking away record over the years in the Premier League, so it’s tough to back them at such a short price tonight, despite their lowly opposition.
Indeed, a goalless draw with Danish side HB Koge at the weekend is a useful indicator of the type of encounter punters should expect here as Martin Jol’s men continue to shake off the pre-season cobwebs.
With an end-to-end thriller looking unlikely, have a small nibble on under 2.5 goals being scored at a reasonable 31/20.
Bolton are set to name a strong team for their trip to Scottish Second Division outfit Ayr United, with the likes of Ádám Bogdán, Tim Ream, Zat Knight, Kevin Davies, Chung-Yong Lee, David N’Gog, Marcos Alonso, Chris Eagles, Martin Petrov and new signings Matt Mills, Keith Andrews and Gregg Wylde all set to feature.
Although the Trotters should prove too good over the piece, it could be a tricky night as Owen Coyle’s men have not played for two months, while Ayr have already got two friendly run-outs under their belts, one of which was an impressive 4-0 win over SPL side Motherwell.
The Honest Men will surely raise their game for such a high-profile fixture and with Bolton’s commitment to attacking football (they had more games featuring over 2.5 goals than any other team in last year’s Premier League), a high-scoring encounter could be in prospect. Take the 3/5 on over 2.5 goals being scored rather than lumping on the visitors at the inferior price.
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