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Sports Desk - By Aodhán Elder

By Aodhán Elder

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Mar 01, 2011


Champions League 2011
The common consensus is that fighting battles on two fronts is an energy-sapping drain on resources likely to end in failure. That sounds like the conclusion of some military historian, but equally it’s a notion that has crept into thinking about the Champions League. The demands of extra matches, sponsorship, media commitments, and a seemingly endless blur of departure lounges are reckoned to be too much for the average modern player to deal with, but there is evidence to suggest this is little more than a convenient excuse for managers when the hunt for glory reaches a cul de sac.
In the last few years, a trend has emerged in the Champions League. Despite the common perception that domestic glory is difficult to achieve in tandem with European success, the last three winners of the tournament have also added their respective domestic championships to the haul in the same season. In fact of the six finalists since 2007, it’s only Chelsea in 2008 who didn’t also claim their national title and in that case they did chase Manchester United all the way to the final day of the season on the domestic front. There are some notable exceptions, but the capacity to compete for silverware at home is generally a portent of being able to claim European glory. In the 18 editions of the Champions League, the winners have combined a national title with “Old Big Ears” on 10 occasions. That statistic allows Marseille to retain their discredited Ligue 1 crown of 1993, but even discounting it gives a strike-rate of 50 percent which may come as a surprise to football fans used to managerial moans about fixture congestion.
If we are to look for teams likely to go close to domestic glory as winners of the Champions League, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Schalke, and, depending on your viewpoint, Chelsea may be taken out of the equation. That leaves us with Barcelona and Real Madrid leading the way in the betting, but the bookmakers have largely kept the two La Liga sides very much onside. Man Utd have been error-strewn and patchy for much of the season, but they’re in the hunt for another Premier League title and the fact they’re winning without hitting top gear suggests they can make the necessary improvement. With a kind last 16 draw, a quarter final looks likely and it’d be little surprise to see the Red Devils get it right over the five games they need to claim the trophy. There’s 9/1 to be had on the exchanges and that’s worth a punt. For the more speculative amongst us, AC Milan would also seem to fit the profile of a side doing well domestically. They’re putting together a much improved Serie A campaign and boast some top quality attackers. The defence isn’t typical catenaccio in reliability, but 22/1 might be enough to tempt some people into taking the chance.
Cricket World Cup 2011
Given the rapid and unforgiving nature of the one-day game, there is rarely much to choose between the world’s top tier nations. That admittedly vague term would cover the top seven teams in the world rankings and perhaps the West Indies. There is a case to be made that both sides in a contest should be priced up at around the evens mark, especially at a neutral venue. Of course the odds-compilers will mould the odds to take into account form, conditions, and history, but seldom should there be a huge disparity between the prices, and anything that edges towards the 2/1 mark in a game between any two of the world’s top sides is worthy of consideration.
Looking at the overall picture, England will be on a high after their Ashes victory, but any nationalistic optimism should be tempered by the reality. Winning the urn away from home was an important psychological milestone in the evolution of the team, but it will have only the slightest benefit as they chase their first World Cup. Another team offering little in the way of value are Australia. Of course, they’ll be attempting to win their fourth World Cup in a row, but while the teams that put them in this position were packed with some of the most legendary players to have worn the Baggy Green, the current crop lack quality in depth. The 4/1 for an Aussie win doesn’t shout value and considering England have landed in the tougher of the groups with the minnows more capable of taking a bite out of the big fish, the 6/1 for them to go all the way isn’t hugely enticing either. Home advantage will help the claims of both India and Sri Lanka, but with the IPL giving many top players the chance to play in much of the Indian subcontinent, it may not be worth as much as it has in the past. One high profile team yet to claim a World Cup are South Africa and considering the strength of the team, the conditions, and some decent form, 6/1 has its appeal. ♠