EURO 2016: WE PREVIEW THE GROUP STAGES

Below, Calum Chinchen analyses all six of the Euro 2016 groups, providing you with insight and tips in the process…

GROUP A

It is common knowledge that the last time France hosted a major tournament, they were successful. Les Bleus won the 1998 World Cup and set the tournament alight with a brand of fast, attacking football.

The French are 3/1 favourites for this tournament, and while this is partly down to the fact that they are hosting, it also has a great deal to do with their current playing staff.

Didier Deschamps has a wealth of young talent at his disposal, with the likes of Rafael Varane, Kingsley Coman, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba (below) all expected to play a part.

POGBA

While their main source of talent comes from their youngsters, they also have a real spine of experience, with Deschamps naming Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna and Yohan Cabaye in the squad after their successful domestic campaigns.

There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the French will go unbeaten in the group stages – advancing as winners of Group A in the process.

Talking of exciting young squads, the current Swiss playing staff is among the best in their history. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri are two of the most talented youngsters in the game, and both will be present for Switzerland at the tournament.

Arsenal were so impressed by Xhaka that they forked out a reported £30m recently, while Shaqiri has starred in the Bundesliga, Serie A and Premier League since making his international debut at the age of 18.

We don’t see the Swiss doing enough to stop France, however, there is no doubting that they will advance to the last 16.

While both Albania and Romania did wonderfully to reach the finals, we don’t see either side advancing from the group stages. The only chance either side has of winning a game, is when they face each other in Lyon during the last round of group games.

BEST BET: FRANCE/SWITZERLAND (STRAIGHT FORECAST) @ 6/4

GROUP B

The question on everyone’s lips – can England finally end their 50 year wait for a major trophy?

Roy Hodgson’s men sailed through qualification and looked impressive throughout, winning every single game en-route to topping their group.

That said, England weren’t really tested during the campaign, with only Switzerland providing any sort of test for Hodgson’s men.

At major tournaments, scoring goals in a real issue for the Three Lions – at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, they netted on just seven occasions.

Wayne Rooney started in attack at both of the above tournaments, however it looks as though the England captain will revert to a deeper role due to the fact that Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy (below) shared 49 Premier League goals between them this season.

KANE VARDY

Finding the net shouldn’t be a problem for England at Euro 2016, and neither should be group qualification. We see them making the last 16, but can’t guarantee that they will top the group.

Wales will be competing at their first ever European Championships in the summer and their clash with England on June 16th is already wetting the appetite of many.

In Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale (below) Wales have two of the most talented players at the tournament and there is absolutely no reason why they can’t make a real impact in France.

BALE WALES

Chris Coleman has assembled a fearless squad who are most comfortable when playing on the break – as they showed during their two qualification games against Belgium, where they won an impressive four points.

Wales are our dark horses for the tournament and we see them advancing from the group with their neighbours.

While Russia are an efficient unit, they do have a real lack of flair among their ranks.

The Russian’s tend to adopt a rather negative style and this may cause a problem when playing against the pace of England and Wales.

Marek Hamsik and Martin Skrtel are the key men for Slovakia and both will have to be at their best and ever present if their nation are to avoid finishing bottom of Group B.

However, due to a lack of big tournament experience and quality within the squad, we see the wooden spoon being the only outcome for the Slovakians.

BEST BET: WALES TO QUALIFY @ 4/7

GROUP C

Germany were crowned World Champions after their wonderful campaign in Brazil two years ago, however despite topping their Euro 2016 qualification group, they were less than convincing.

Joachim Low’s men only finished a point clear in their group after losing to neighbours Poland and failing to beat the Republic of Ireland in either of their two meetings.

While Germany coped without a recognised centre forward at the World Cup, we see it being a real hindrance for them in France. That said, they will still advance from Group C as winners.

As mentioned, Poland were in the same qualification group as Germany, qualifying after finishing in second place.

Adam Nawałka’s side were the highest scoring of all in Euro 2016 qualification – with a staggering 33 goals from their 10 games. While some of this was down to the four games in which they faced Georgia and Gibraltar, it was mainly down to the predatory instinct of Bayern Munich striker, Robert Lewandowski (below) who topped the scoring charts with 13 goals.

LEWANDOWSKI POLAND

The Poland striker is 14/1 to be the top scorer in France, however, his success depends on whether or not his country can qualify from Group C.

Ukraine qualified for the tournament via the playoffs, where they defeated a sub-standard Slovenia side.

The Ukrainians are one of the most defensive sides at the tournament and conceded just four goals during their qualification campaign.

However, this style really hampers them when going forward and despite having the always impressive talents of Adriy Yarmolenko within their ranks – we see them finishing at the foot of the group.

Northern Ireland are back in a major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Michael O’Neil and his men shocked everyone in qualification – topping Group F ahead of Romania and Hungary.

While Northern Ireland don’t have any so-called ‘superstars’ within their squad, they do have a remarkable team spirit.

MCAULEY

Defensively, they are remarkably efficient with Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart and Gareth McAuley (above) all turning in some heroic performances during qualification.

There is no pressure on the Green and White Army, and that may just allow them to play with freedom in France. Don’t be surprised if they cause a few shocks along the way!

BEST BET: UKRAINE TO FINISH BOTTOM @ 3/1

GROUP D

Spain appear to be the side that everybody has forgotten about. Despite their dreadful World Cup showing two years ago, it is worth remembering that before that, they managed to win THREE major tournaments in a row.

Their dismal World Cup showing was down to an experiment that went wrong. While Diego Costa was in fantastic form for his then club, Atletico Madrid, his style of play just didn’t fit that of his adopted nation. This really showed in Brazil, with Spain scoring on just four occasions and Costa failing to net during their three games.

Costa hasn’t been selected by Vicente Del Bosque for the finals in France and we see that as a wise move – not just because of his dreadful disciplinary record, but because there is now a far better option within the Spanish ranks.

Alvaro Morata (below) is the complete forward and has enjoyed a wonderful campaign with his club Juventus. The former Real Madrid man will be key for his nation in France due to his link-up play and predatory instinct.

MORATA

We see Morata firing Spain to the top of Group D.

Croatia have a wealth of talent in their ranks, with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and Mario Mandzukic all making their final Euro 2016 squad.

The 1998 World Cup in France was a magical tournament for the Croatians. In their first ever World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia surprised everyone by eventually finishing in third position.

We see them drawing inspiration from 1998, and making it to the last 16 alongside Spain.

There is no doubting that Turkey have the capabilities to advance, but in our minds, Fatih Terim’s squad really lacks balance.

With Arda Turan, Nuri Sahin, Gokhan Tore and Hakan Calhanoglu (below) in their ranks, it is fair to say that Turkey have one of the strongest midfield units in the entire tournament.

HAKAN

However, they really lack presence and quality, both in defence and attack – which may become a real issue.

The Czech Republic were drawn alongside Turkey in qualifying, and managed to finish four points ahead of their Group D rivals en-route to top spot.

While the Czech’s squad is full of quality, age is a real issue with Peter Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil and David Lafata all now over 33 years of age.

The Czech Republic will be required to play three group games in just eight days during the tournament, which may be a real hindrance to Pavel Vrba’s team.

BEST BET: SPAIN & CROATIA (DUAL FORECAST) @ 11/8

GROUP E

For years, Belgium were a mediocre side who struggled to reach major tournaments – but that has all changed nowadays.

In recent years, Marc Wilmots and his talented playing staff have gone from strength-to-strength, and found themselves at the top of the FIFA World Rankings in late 2015.

While Argentina have now replaced them at the top of that list, Belgium are still the second best team in the world, and we see them topping Group E with relative ease.

Antonio Conte (below) will take over as Chelsea manager in July, but before that, he will be leading Italy at the European Championships.

CONTE

Despite not having the greatest squad, you can never count the Italians out of a major tournament. They have finished as runners-up in two of the last four European Championships, losing to a very impressive Spain side in the final four years ago.

The Republic of Ireland will be hoping for a better showing than they mustered at the 2012 European Championships. At that tournament, Ireland lost all three of their group games and only managed to score once in the process.

However, the ‘Boys in Green’ seem to be a totally different animal under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane. Ireland managed to finish behind Germany and Poland in a tough qualification group, and reached the finals after a wonderful playoff victory over Bosnia.

WALTERS

Jonathan Walters (above) was the key man for Ireland during that campaign – scoring on five occasions and putting in numerous energetic performances.

At present, Sweden are looking like a one man team.

Zlatan Ibrahimović got 11 of Sweden’s 19 goals in qualification, including a vital brace in the second leg of their playoff tie against Demark.

While a Zlatan inspired Sweden could well make it to the last 16, a loss of form or injury to the charismatic free agent would almost certainly see Sweden heading home after three games.

BEST BET: BELGIUM TO WIN GROUP @ EVENS

GROUP F

Whilst Portugal sailed through qualification, it is worth noting that they only needed to finish above Albania, Denmark, Serbia and Armenia in order to do so.

Cristiano Ronaldo (below) is undoubtedly the key man for his nation and the Real Madrid winger got five of his side’s 11 goals during qualification.

RONALDO PORTUGAL

This is the weakest of all the Euro 2016 groups, and by default, we see Portugal advancing, but we can’t guarantee they will go through as winners.

After a wonderful qualification campaign, which saw them finish top of their group, Austria find themselves in the top 10 of the FIFA World Rankings.

The combination between David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Marc Janko proved deadly during qualification and if the three men can continue their form then there is no reason why Austria can’t challenge for top spot in Group F.

Iceland and Hungary both defied the odds to reach Euro 2016, but due to a lack of quality, we feel the two sides will struggle to advance to the last 16.

That said, we do see Iceland as the far better side, and fancy them to grab the third spot – leaving the Hungarians at the foot of the table.

BEST BET: HUNGARY TO FINISH BOTTOM @ 11/10

ACCA INSURANCE

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

If you are not affiliated to a club, you can bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood, World Horse Welfare and StreetGames.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly: www.gambleaware.co.uk

Advertisements

MCB INSIGHT: THE WEEK’S TOP INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL TIPS

The Premier League is taking a break this weekend, with the Euro 2016 Playoffs and International Friendlies taking its place.

But don’t fret, that hasn’t stopped our tipping team, who have researched all the weekend action to provide you with these top tips.

All the odds provided are an average from across the industry and were correct at the time of publish.

BOSNIA v REP OF IRELAND

Dzeko: Talisman

These two sides had very similar Euro 2016 qualification campaigns. Both sides started slowly, but eventually recovered to finish third in their respective groups and claim a playoff place. Bosnia (2.05) were pipped to qualification from Group B by Belgium and Wales, while the Republic of Ireland (4.10) successfully fended off neighbours Scotland to claim the Group D playoff spot.

The two sides have only met on one previous occasion, with Shane Long scoring the winner at The Aviva Stadium three years ago.

Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic are the heartbeat of this Bosnia side. Both men are currently plying their trade with Italian giants Roma, with their link-up play becoming equally lethal for club and country.

Martin O’Neil will be hoping that experienced Stoke pair Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan can continue their recent impressive club form while on international duty.

Bosnia only lost one game at home in qualification, and we don’t see that changing on Friday night. We are going for a home win here.

KICK OFF: FRIDAY 13TH @ 19:45 (SS1)

BEST BET: BOSNIA TO WIN @ 2.05

SPAIN v ENGLAND

Hodgson: 100% record in qualification

It may surprise many, but England are currently in better form that their Spanish counterparts. Roy Hodgson’s men won every single game in Euro 2016 qualification and are unbeaten since their World Cup loss to Uruguay back in June of last year.

That said, Spain (1.85) also sailed through qualification. However, they did lose in recent friendlies against Holland, France and Germany.

England (4.75) were 1-0 winners in the last meeting, with Frank Lampard netting the winner at Wembley back in 2011.

International friendlies usually mean squad rotation and experimentation. We certainly expect that to be the case on Friday night and expect both sides to blood some more youthful options.

Tottenham pair Dele Alli and Erik Dier were both called up by Roy Hodgson and we anticipate both playing a part after equally impressive performances against rivals Arsenal last week.

We can see an open game in Alicante and really fancy both sides to get on the scoresheet.

KICK OFF: FRIDAY 13TH @ 19:45 (ITV)

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.10

WALES v HOLLAND

Coleman: Doing a fine job

Chris Coleman has done a fantastic job since taking over as Wales (4.20) manager in 2012. The Dragons successfully qualified for Euro 2016 after coming through a very tough group that included Belgium, Bosnia and Israel. Along with this, they also made their way into the top ten of the FIFA World Rankings for the first time.

It has been a completely contrasting story for Holland (1.95) since their third place finish in last year’s World Cup. After a disastrous start to their Euro 2016 qualification campaign, Guus Hiddink vacated his managerial position. However, his successor Danny Blind was not able to turn things around, with Holland failing to get even a playoff spot after finishing fourth in Group A, meaning they won’t be present at Euro 2016.

Aaron Ramsey will miss this one with injury, while Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has been rested. The two men were instrumental in qualification, contributing to a vast number of their countries goals during the campaign. That said, senior players such as Joe Ledley, Chris Gunter and Ashley Williams will play, with all possessing the ability to stabilise the side in their absence.

The hosts are a huge price for this one, even without Ramsey and Bale present. We see Wales getting a draw here – at the very least.

KICK OFF: FRIDAY 13TH @ 19:45 (BBC WALES)

BEST BET: WALES/DRAW (DC) @ 1.75

UKRAINE v SLOVENIA

Andriy Yarmolenko: Talented

From an historical standpoint, it is surprising to see Slovenia (6.50) as big outsiders for their European Championship qualifying playoff first leg, since they have never lost to Ukraine in four previous meetings. Slovenia have won both meetings at home and each meeting saw over 2.5 goals scored.

Ukraine (1.65) won three of their last four group games at home, their only loss coming at home to Spain, while Slovenia lost three of five road games in England’s group.

Slovenia’s group wins in Lithuania and San Marino were expected, but it must be remembered that they scored in each game against England and in each of their last eight group games.

Ukraine conceded just four goals in their qualifying matches and are technically sophisticated, with two excellent wingers who have the ability to open up some of the best teams in the world.

We feel Ukraine should have enough to pull out the win here.

KICK OFF: SATURDAY 14TH @ 17:00 (SS1)

BEST BET: UKRAINE TO WIN @ 1.65

SWEDEN v DENMARK

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Dominant

The first leg of this European Championship qualifying playoff game is expected to be a tight affair.

Denmark (3.45) have won the last four meetings with Sweden, who have failed to score in the last five meetings. Nine of the last 12 meetings has seen less than three goals scored and Sweden have won three of their five home games in qualifying, against minnows Moldova, Liechtenstein and Montenegro. They also lost 1-4 against Austria and drew 1-1 with Russia.

Denmark were also far from convincing in their qualifying group, but they did post a notable away win in Serbia, and took road points at Albania and Armenia. Their sole losses in the group came against Portugal (1-0 home and away), but they failed to score in their last three group games.

We see Sweden (2.40) gaining a first-leg advantage, albeit a narrow one.

KICK OFF: SATURDAY 14TH @ 19:45 (SS1)

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.65

ENGLAND v FRANCE

Pogba: Key man for France

France (3.00) are the hosts of Euro 2016, meaning they didn’t need to qualify for the tournament. While some may argue that such a scenario is a blessing, others will argue that a lack of competitive action for two years can have a detrimental effect on a team.

England (2.40) have not beaten Tuesday’s opponents in any of their last six meetings, with their last victory coming back in 1997. The last meeting between the two sides took place at Euro 2012 and ended in a 1-1 draw.

Paul Pogba is the key man for Didier Deschamps side. The powerful Juventus midfielder has the ability to dominate opponents, both tactically and physically. Pogba has been instrumental for France since his debut in 2013 and has been constantly likened to countryman Patrick Vieira.

Of the last ten meetings between these sides, only one has ended with more than two goals being scored. That stat, combined with both sides evident strength in defence, leads us to believe that this one will be a low scoring encounter.

KICK OFF: TUESDAY 17TH @ 20:00 (ITV)

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70

Stay tuned to our WordPress site for Previews and Betting Guides on a variety of Sports….

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

SEPTEMBER’S EURO 2016 QUALIFIERS – SIX TOP TIPS FROM MCB

By Calum Chinchen

The Premier League may be taking a break, but that hasn’t prevented us from providing you with some fantastic tips for the week.

As you may know, we at www.myclubbetting.com are still in the process of launching our new sportsbook, meaning that our betting services are still unavailable.

However, after our recent tipping success, we really wouldn’t want you to miss out on our winning selections.

Euro 2016 Qualifiers are on the menu this week, and we have selected tips from six of the biggest fixtures taking place over the week.

We wish you the best of luck…

GERMANY  v POLAND

Lewandowski: Prolific

It has been far from plain sailing for Germany since they lifted the World Cup last summer. Joachim Low’s side got off to a slow start in European Championship qualification, suffering a 2-0 defeat against Friday’s opponents and dropping points at home to the Republic of Ireland.

Poland have looked very solid so far, they find themselves top of the group and are still unbeaten.

Germany are a side in transition. Former defensive lynchpins Phillip Lahm and Per Mertesacker have been missed since retiring from the national team. However, they do seem to have a found some form of late.

Poland usually rely on two men who play their club football in Germany. Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski will both have to be at their best if Poland are going to get a result here.

It might not be great value, but we still fancy Germany to win this one.

BEST BET: GERMANY TO WIN

KICK OFF: FRIDAY @ 19:45 (ITV4)

SAN MARINO v ENGLAND

Hodgson: Top of group

for Euro 2016 has been a breeze for Roy Hodgson’s men. England are unbeaten so far in this campaign and find themselves at the top of Group E after impressive away wins against Slovenia and Switzerland.

Unsurprisingly, San Marino are bottom of the group with only one point. England were convincing winners in the reverse fixture, winning 5-0 at Wembley last October.

San Marino are solely focussed on damage limitation whenever they play a competitive fixture. They are yet to score a goal in Euro 2016 qualification, and they rarely venture past the halfway line.

This will be like a training session for Roy Hodgson’s side and there is no doubt that they are going to be comfortable winners in Serravale on Saturday evening.

We fancy a very high scoring encounter here.

BEST BET: OVER 5.5 GOALS

KICK OFF: SATURDAY @ 17:00 (ITV)

WALES v ISRAEL

Bale: Star performer

Coleman has worked wonders since taking over as Wales manager. The former Fulham and Real Sociedad gaffer has guided his country to an impressive top 10 world ranking.

Israel are a very dangerous outfit, who have impressed with group wins against both Bosnia and Cyprus. Wales were dominant in the reverse fixture, with Gareth Bale grabbing a brace in their convincing 3-0 win in Haifa.

There is no doubt that Coleman has been blessed with a magnificent squad since taking over. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are the country’s star men, and both have been magnificent throughout this qualification campaign.

The Israel back four are certainly not the quickest, and we think that the pace of Bale and fellow winger Hal Robson-Kanu will cause them all sorts of bother.

We can see goals in this one and fancy Wales for the win.

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS

KICK OFF: SUNDAY @ 17:00 (SS1)

REP OF IRELAND v GEORGIA

Keane: Predator

The Republic of Ireland have found Euro 2016 qualification a little tricky so far. Martin O’Neill is yet to guide his side to victory against any of the so called ‘big boys’ in Group D, however the Irish did earn a key point away in Germany.

Georgia have been poor throughout this qualification campaign and that was evident when Ireland grabbed a vital 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, after a late Aiden McGeady wonder strike in Tbilisi.

Robbie Keane has been in fine form in the MLS this season, and the prolific LA Galaxy frontman will be vital for Ireland in this one.

Martin O’Neill hasn’t seen his side keep a clean sheet against any team in the group other than Gibraltar, so getting on the scoresheet against the Georgian’s is going to be hugely important.

We can see goals here & fancy both teams to score.

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE

KICK OFF: MONDAY @ 19:45 (SS2)

SCOTLAND v GERMANY

Strachan: Leader

Gordon Strachan has transformed the Scottish national side since taking over in 2013. The former Celtic manager took over an ageing Craig Levein team that was lacking in confidence, and turned them into a slick youthful unit which operates with fast, attacking football.

The Tartan Army were unlucky in the reverse fixture a year ago, losing 2-1 in Dortmund after a late Thomas Muller winner.

Germany struggled earlier in the group, but the World Champions look to be a little more settled now .

Scotland’s only real weakness lies in the centre forward position. Steven Fletcher and Chris Martin have been unconvincing in recent outings so Leigh Griffiths may get the nod.

We think the link-up play between Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Götze will be just too much for the Scotland – we fancy an away win here.

BEST BET: GERMANY TO WIN

KICK OFF: MONDAY @ 19:45 (SS1)

ENGLAND v SWITZERLAND

Rooney: Out of form

England return to the familiar surroundings of Wembley on Tuesday evening. Roy Hodgson’s men have been fantastic throughout qualification, with the highlight being their 2-0 away win against Tuesday’s opponents a year ago.

Switzerland are arguably the second best team in Group E, behind their Wembley opponents. Former Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic took over the managerial reins from Ottmar Hitzfeld after last summer’s World Cup.

Swiss maestro Xherdan Shaqiri has recently moved to the Premier League, and Stoke City’s record signing is the key man for his country.

England will start with either Harry Kane or Wayne Rooney as the lone striker, and in truth neither have looked convincing for their clubs so far this season. Switzerland are a very organised outfit, and we can see them making things very difficult for the hosts.

We fancy this Swiss side to get a draw here – at the very least.

BEST BET: SWITZERLAND/DRAW (DOUBLE CHANCE)

KICK OFF: TUESDAY @ 19:45 (ITV)

Stay tuned to our WordPress site for Previews and Betting Guides on a variety of Sports….

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

MCB EXCLUSIVE – The Saturday Selections – your three sporting tips!

You already know that your club betting service gives you more than any other high street bookie: We give your club free kit and equipment – plus we give back 20% of revenues!

And now we’ll attempt to find three bets each day to stimulate your punting juices.

Here’s our offering for Saturday, March 28…

Football: Belgium v Cyprus

Benteke
Cyprus test: Benteke

Belgium have made a sluggish start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, taking just five points from a possible nine. They need to get back on track quickly and they should easily account for Cyprus on Saturday evening.

Cyprus have been hit hard by injuries and the youngsters that have been bought in by boss Charalampos Christodoulou are on a hiding to nothing.

Belgium may have lost Romelu Lukaku to injury, but they still have the likes of Premier League stars Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Christian Benteke, Marouane Fellaini, plus Kevin Du Bruyne.

The only danger is that the World Cup quarter-finalists will take the Cypriots too lightly and they should be capable of winning by two clear goals or more. They should also win to nil at odds of 1.63.

BET: Belgium to win and over 2.5 goals @ 1.62

Racing: Rely on Brocklesby Bill

Bill Turner knows a thing or two about sharp two-year-old sprinters. There is arguably no finer trainer of juveniles, given the right ammunition.

The Dorset handler is not in the same league as those who are backed by Arab owners, with money that can buy the best bloodlines.

However, Turner knows a bargain and can get the best out of them.

He has a happy knack of farming the traditional turf-racing opener, the Brocklesby Stakes and hopefully the race will be named after him in due course. The Brocklesby Bill Turner Handicap has a nice ring to it.

Turner has saddled the winner five times since 2002 – The Lord (2002), Spoof Master (2006), Sallys Dilemma (2008), He’s So Cool (2011) and Mick’s Yer Man (2013).

Today he relies on Just That Lord, who is making his debut in the hands of Turner’s grandson, Ryan While, who takes 5lb off his back.

The son of Avonbridge is bred to better over slightly further in time, but the Flat season opener does not look a hugely competitive race and he may be capable of extending Turner’s great record in it.

SELECTION: Just That Lord (1:25 Doncaster)

Boxing: Kell Brook v Ionut Dan Ion

Kell Brook bids to defend his IBF World Welterweight title and there is going to be a lot of pressure on him in Sheffield.

This will be the first defence of his title, a return after serious injury, a pressure-cooker atmosphere and the prospect of a money-spinning fight next.

Brook (33-0, 22KOs) is looking at a clash with the winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao, but he cannot afford to underestimate Jo Jo Dan (34-2, 28Kos), who is a southpaw and live underdog coming off five consecutive wins. The 33-year-old has also never been stopped and looks vastly over-priced at 6.80.

Brook, who earned an unlikely points decision when beating Shawn Porter to claim the title in Carson, California, suffered an horrific leg injury in a machete attack when on a family holiday in Tenerife soon after.

There were fears that the 28-year-old might never walk again, so serious was the wound to his left leg.

However, as long as the occasion does not get to him – he fights in front of 10,000 expectant home fans – Brook should win by a stoppage between rounds seven and 12.

SELECTION: Brock to win @ 1.07

All odds quoted from Cefn Fforest AFC’s betting service cefnfforestafc.myclubbetting.co.uk

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

You must be aged 18 or over to bet. Please gamble responsiblywww.gambleaware.co.uk

Euro 2016 qualifiers – MCB betting angle

Ton up: 100 caps for Wayne Rooney

International week is never an easy time for bookmakers, as the betting public’s apathy is palpable.

England face Slovenia at Wembley Stadium on Saturday (5pm), hoping to keep their 100% Euro 2016 qualifying record intact after three successive victories.

Slovenia lost both previous meetings by the odd goal and are no pushovers, and perhaps that is why Roy Hodgson was getting his excuses in early this week, blaming the state of the pitch after the NFL game held there last Sunday.

You cannot blame the Football Association for doing a deal with the NFL which saw three fixtures take place at Wembley this year, with another three scheduled for next autumn.

Dolphins v Raiders wembley
Sell-out: Fans flock to NFL games

The average attendance for an NFL game at Wembley over the past three years has been 83,609. In contrast, the attendance of 40,181 for England vs. Norway in September was the stadium’s lowest since it re-opened in 2007. Just 55,990 turned up for England vs. San Marino last month.

And a few thousand of those tickets were given away free to schools in a bid to boost the attendance.

If there is criticism to be levelled, it should be at the F.A., who spent over £800 million on a stadium without a fully retractable roof! Here’s a clue: it rains a lot at this time of year and always has.

There may be a couple of hundred added to the gate on account of Wayne Rooney gaining a 100th international cap, but even that landmark has been met with plenty of apathy – Jason Burt’s excellent commentary piece in the Telegraph could not have summed it up any better .

Wembley stadium England v Norway half empty
Half empty: Plenty of England fans dressed as red plastic seats

England are 1.32 (8/25) to win, with Slovenia on offer at 11.0 (10/1). The draw is 4.70 (37/10).

We expect England to win with a little in hand and the odds of 1.93 (40/43) to be leading at half-time and full-time are of interest.

Given that a healthy percentage of England fans at Wembley are dressed as red plastic seats, it should be odds-on for the Three Lions to play their home internationals at a more appropriate venue when their contract expires in three years’ time, leaving this great stadium – even without a suitable roof – to the NFL, who know exactly how to fill it on a consistent basis.

Elsewhere, Scotland take on the Republic of Ireland on Friday (7:45), with the hosts 2.22 (61/50) to win. Gordon’s Strachan’s Scotland side have lost three of their last four meetings and five of the last six meetings were won to nil.

It is worth noting that the Scots have failed to net in five of the last six meetings and it is 3.15 (43/20) that they fail to score on this occasion.

While Strachan has made a great start, Scotland have been here before. There were moments in Craig Levein’s tenure that exuded optimism. The same was the case under George Burley. It all came to nought.

Scotland should progress to the Euro 2016 finals in France, given that 24 teams qualify, as opposed to 16 which has been the case.

Scotland’s game at Celtic Park should provide an easy three points, such is the dearth of talent available to Martin O’Neill, providing they play to the level shown in the 2-1 defeat by Germany at Dortmund in September.

The approach was refreshing – an attacking style that deserved at least a point and, at times, they looked more than equal to the World Cup winners.

Gordon Strachan 11
New era: Gordon Strachan brings hope

Despite Ireland’s recent good record against the Scots (they are 3.20 or 11/5 to win), Scotland look capable of landing the odds and laying Ireland at 7/20 (by backing Scotland and the Draw on the Double Chance market) is a safe option.

Arguably the most attractive fixture this weekend sees Italy hosting Croatia at the San Siro on Sunday (7:45), with the Azzurri attempting to beat them in a competitive fixture for the first time.

The Croatia team is likely to be very different form the one that was defeated 2-1 by Argentina at Upton Park on Wednesday, with coach Niko Kovac stressing the game is of far more importance.

He said: “Honestly, we are not too happy to be playing Argentina before the Italy game = we’d have preferred it the other way round.”

Italy are unbeaten in their three qualifiers thus far and are 2.12 (28/25) to beat Croatia for the first time in seven meetings, having lost thee and drawn three. Croatia are 3.45 (49/20), while the draw is 2.98 (97/49).

A draw seems the most likely outcome and we look for a Correct Score of 1-1 at odds of 6.20 (26/5).

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service. It is completely free and your club will not only receive 20% of the bookmakers’ net profit, it will also receive free kit and equipment. See myclubbetting.com for details.

Please gamble responsibly. You must be 18 years or over to bet.