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The expectations were sky high before the final act of the Confederation Cup and Brazil was under tremendous pressure to win the game against Spain. People took it to the streets but as the fights and protests against the government continued, football fans rushed to Maracana. Tens of thousands were waiting for their favorite team to win the third trophy in a row and the fact that they were to face the reigning European and world champion served as an additional incentive to be present.

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The stakes couldn’t be higher and the hosts were fully aware of the importance of this fixture ahead of the World Cup and this was obvious from the first minute. Brazil came out firing on all cylinders and just 2 minutes into the first half they found a way to score the opening goal. While Fred’s merit is undeniable, it is worth mentioning that Spain committed a string of errors in the defense that made it possible for the hosts to take an early lead.

The reigning world champion fought back and they had a couple of scoring opportunities of their own, but failed to convert any of them. Brazil took advantage of a string of bad passes to test Cassilias, but the Spanish goaltender was just as lucky as he is talented. The goalie deflected a couple of shots but in the end there was nothing more to do when Neymar escaped alone and sent a powerful shot. The ball rested in the net and before the break Brazil was already two goals ahead and hungry for more.

Immediately after the game resumed, the hosts did it again and this time it was Fred to find a gap in Spain’s defense to take the score to 3-0. For most of the second half, the two teams tried to catch the opponents off guard by launching lethal counterattacks but none found a way to score. The visitors were presented with a rare opportunity to claw their way back into the game when Sergio Ramos poorly executed a penalty kick.

From that moment onward it all went downhill for Spain who was toothless upfront and only sent a couple of shots at the opponent’s net. Brazil could’ve taken the score to 4-0 in the final minutes of the game but their strikers missed the goal by a few centimeters. For a full recap comprising a couple of minutes of video check out http://www.cbc.ca/player/Sports/Soccer/Confederations+Cup/ID/2395131161/

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Virtually all major European football championships have reached their conclusion and only a couple of leagues are still on. Alcorcon and Girona will be fighting for their chance to advance to Primera Division and both teams are in an excellent position of making the push for Spain’s first flight. The playoffs began recently and Alcorcon will have home pitch advantage in the first leg, so it needs to make the most of it if the inexperienced team is to have any chance at promotion.

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The visitors will be fielding a defensive minded starting formation with Acuna in the offense, and hope that he will score at least one goal away from home. Such an outcome would give them the first chance in the double legged round, because they are the owners of a formidable home record. Acuna scored 17 goals this season, more than any of his teammates and he remains a dangerous foe even if he doesn’t pair up with another striker.

Alcorcon will use a similar starting formation in the second leg and they have one prolific striker of their own, as 26-year-old Oriol scored 18 goals in 2013. He is among the top scorers in Segunda Division and was kept on the bench for most of the final rounds, as his team was already qualified for the playoffs. He will need all the support he can get from the midfield, but won’t be left alone upfront. Vela and Kike are just as suitable for replacements as they are to start alongside Oriol, but tonight they will be given the chance to add their names on the scoreboard.

This is a do or die situation for Alcorcon who lacks both the experience and a convincing performance away from home to count on the second leg. Bookmakers are gradually reducing the odds for a home victory and they currently stand that 1.90 but they are expected to drop as the kickoff draws near. The head to head record speaks for itself with both teams winning all home games and this makes it worth risking a wager on Alcorcon to prevail tonight.

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Watford can consider themselves lucky to be playing the final against Crystal Palace, after barely qualifying in a highly contested double legged semifinals. Leicester won the second leg by 1-0, but the goals scored by Watford in the first leg in the seventh minute of overtime proved decisive. If they are to book a place for the Premier League, they will need to close the gaps existing in the defense, something easier said than done with three key players missing due to injuries.

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Crystal Palace has just one player unfit to play, but replacing Glenn Murray is a tall order for a team who grew to depend on this striker. He is the top scorer and although coach Ian Holloway will send three strikers upfront, none of them has the same uncanny ability of scoring from impossible situations. In other news, Crystal Palace is an excellent defensive team and every goal they score weighs heavily in the balance as they are experts at preserving even the slightest advantage.

The head to head record suggests that the two teams are evenly matched, with both of them winning most points in front of their fans. The recent games were all high-scoring ones, with the most convincing victory for Crystal Palace being a 4-0 triumph in February 2012. They drew 5 of the last 10 games and ever since Glenn Murray was sidelined their offensive struggled to score, adding pressure on the defense.

By contrast, Watford is a more flamboyant team who appears to be more concerned about scoring one more goal than their opponents. Just one of the last 10 games ended in a draw but they had a hard time in keeping a clean sheet even in those matches that they’ve eventually won. The 3-5-2  starting formation shouldn’t deceive punters, because despite the appearances, Watford will be the more aggressive team.

Several teams in the Championship division kept their dreams of promoting to the Premier League alive until the very last month, but only Crystal Palace and Watford are still in the race now. Leeds and Blackpool were among the favorites but they fell flat weeks ago, soon after the decisive match previewed at http://www.ukfootballpages.com/the-final-chance-for-the-premiere-league/.

Punters should realize that the value is with Crystal Palace tonight, and if they want to make this championship final more interesting, it is worth backing them. Given the fact that they are prone to push games into overtime and fancy the idea of a draw, the wisest bet would be the Moneyline wager or the Lift the Trophy bet at odds of 2.20 with most bookmakers.

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Someone unfamiliar with British football might think that this fixture between Liverpool and Everton is one not worth the attention. Some would go as far as to predict an easy win for the visitors, because technical analysis would suggest that they are the only ones who have something to fight for. They are only three points behind Tottenham, so they could theoretically lose their Europa League placement.

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The remaining rounds are particularly difficult for Chelsea, not to mention they are involved in a battle on two fronts. Winning Europa League one year after capturing the Champions League trophy would be a remarkable performance and will somehow make it easier to accept the fact that they haven’t won the Premier League in years. Liverpool drew three consecutive games then won by 6 goals to none at, and this could be another argument for those eager to dismiss the hosts and back the visitors all the way.

While all of these are solid reasons, there are plenty of counter arguments and given the fact that the odds are firmly above evens there is also value in backing the hosts. Liverpool might be eight points behind Tottenham and have a snowflake’s chance in hell of clawing its way to the fifth-place, but the Reds will never give up. They’ve achieved more impressive things than that and unlike their opponents they will encounter less motivated and competitive opponents in the five rounds left.

The head to head record is impressive on many levels, as the two teams met 178 times in a century of rich history and Liverpool prevailed 70 times at home. The rivalry is every bit as strong as it was 100 years ago and the hosts will have all of their fans behind them during this highly emotional game. They will be playing against their city rivals and the hosts will not cut them any slack. There is no better way for football enthusiasts to end the weekend than by watching some of the best English teams in action, regardless of whom they choose to bet on to win the game.

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The two teams are separated by 9 places in the Premier League, but Fulham is closer to the relegation zone than their opponents are from salvation. Any false step would see them plunge in the standings and with the competition being tougher than ever, this is a scenario that the hosts need to avoid. They surely regret the fact that Bobby Zamora will be playing for their opponents, but coach Harry Redknapp kindly asked them not to show hostility towards him. This kind of attitude is not deserved by a player who helped the club a lot in the past, but only time will tell whether the fans will heed this advice or not.

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The game might be scheduled on April Fools’ Day, but unless Fulham comes out with a victory over QPR the joke will be on them and the remaining rounds could turn into a nightmare. For Queens Park Rangers things are even more serious, because they are already regarded as a relegated team by most specialists. They have good reasons not to give them too much credit because they need to close a six points gap and recent results are anything but encouraging. Two victories in five games is hardly enough for a team in dire need of points, but the visitors have run out of options and will need to take even more chances.

Although their coach claims that his objective is to win four of the remaining eight rounds and implies that the points will be secured at home, the hosts shouldn’t be deceived. Hard as it might be to believe, QPR will field an offensive starting formation and hope that they can stun Fulham in the first half. Past performance seems to explain their attitude, because the hosts are frequently conceding early goals and then fight an uphill battle to level the score.

A preview at http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/fulham-vs-qpr-preview-harry-1795483 places the emphasis on Harry Redknapp’s attempt to convince Fulham fans to behave. The text can also serve as a source of inspiration for those who need more reasons for backing the hosts to win, rather than shifting into an inferior gear. Despite their inconclusive results, the hosts are still a potent offensive team and all they need is an opponent willing to open up. Queens Park Rangers is in no position or play it safe, as the visitors are in a do or die situation and the difference between a draw and a defeat is negligible.

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The best English teams have left the Champions League prematurely and the only ones who still keep the flag high are Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham, in Europa League. Manchester United and their city rivals continue to fight for the Premier league title, but the runner ups are in danger of seeing their dreams crushed this afternoon. With the leaders heading towards what appears to be an easy victory at home over Reading, Manchester City needs to win away at Everton if they are to keep their theoretical chances alive.

The hosts are in no mood of offering Manchester City the three points they desperately need on a silver platter, and have an extraordinary record to boost their morale. Everton has lost at home just once this season and in almost 80 fixtures against the Blues, they’ve earned a point in more than three quarters. One thing that might be used as an argument for those anticipating an away victory is the absence of Tim Howard. He is yet to shake off a back problem and it is very likely to be replaced by Jan Mucha.

It wouldn’t be the first time when the second goalkeeper would step up, and if we take a look at recent results it won’t be a tragedy either. More concerning is the fact that Phil Jagielka remains sidelined, although it comes as a relief that John Heitinga is fit to play and will replace him. Tony Hibbert is the only long-term absentees but Everton achieved remarkable results even in his absence. Except for the shocking 0-3 FA cup defeat to Wigan, the hosts had an excellent month and they stay within striking distance to the European cups.

On the other side we have a team under a lot of pressure despite the fact that their Champions League spot is not endangered by Tottenham. For a team that enjoys a huge budget, it comes as no surprise that the expectations are equally high and so far Manchester City has disappointed. Very few remember the championship won last year in the last round, and both fans and owners are angry with the players for their current Champions League performance.

Hard-pressed to win the championship again and double uo that performance by lifting the FA cup as well, the visitors will need to press forward from the first minute. In the first half of the season when the two teams met in Manchester, the hosts barely scrapped a point thanks to a late goal by Tevez.

Now they will face a motivated team anxious to erase the unpleasant memory caused by their unexpected meltdown in the midweek cup game. To make things even worse, it appears like both Tevez and Aguero will miss this afternoon, which will further complicate matters upfront. An unbiased and informative preview for this match is available at http://www1.skysports.com/football/live/match/261853/preview.

The seem to bookmakers remain oblivious of the fact that Manchester City won very few games in Liverpool even over the last couple of years since the capital influx began. Laying the visitors or playing a bet on the hosts not to lose is the better choice, especially with the odds inching closer to evens. There are no reasons to worry about placing a late bet because with most punters probably backing the visitors, the odds will rise if they will move at all.

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Only a couple of weeks ago, Manchester City was contemplating another Premier league title secured in the very last round, as the points separating them from local rivals were not intimidated. Everything changed meanwhile and now they have a 15 point gap to close, with the odds of accomplishing something like this being insignificant. Although the Premier League title has slipped through their fingers, today’s visitors have plenty of reasons to treat the game against Aston Villa seriously.

Tottenham and Chelsea are encroaching on their Champions League title and the last thing Manchester City needs is to go through qualifying rounds. They have plenty of time to avoid this scenario and a significant advantage to build on, but first they need to and their recent slip. Two consecutive victories over Leeds and Chelsea should have strengthened their morale as Manchester City scored six goals without conceding one. They will have a difficult mission in replicating that performance away at Birmingham, where Aston Villa is playing some offensive football and has nothing to lose.

The hosts have already crossed the terrible threshold and are now tied with Wigan for the 17th place and their 24 points are not enough to take them out of the relegation zone. A narrow margin victory over Manchester City or even a draw would do that, but losing consecutive games after their recent defeat to Arsenal would only aggravate their misery. The hosts miss three players who would usually feature in the defensive or midfield, but their offensive is at full strength and this is refreshing.

Manchester City coach Mancini can finally field his best starting team, as he has no absentees and no reasons to rest the players for upcoming games. Aguero, Dzeko and Tevez with all play tonight and they have scored a combined 29 goals, which makes them a real threat for the shaky Aston Villa defense. One thing that punters should be aware of is that the hosts are not going to respond by lining up a defensive minded team, but instead will once again start with three strikers.

Benteke is the top scorer, but young Weimann has scored in each of the last two games and will feature upfront alongside Agbonlahor. While they are no match for the offensive trio sent forward by Mancini, they will give City a run for its money. The odds for more than 2.5 goals to be scored are not spectacular, but they are still far better than a straight away victory, which makes them the best choice for punters.

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Neither Leeds nor Blackpool are in good shape and with a gap of more than 10 points separating both from the last playoffs eligible spot, any mistake can prove fatal. The two teams are struggling in the second half of the standings and the recent results are far from encouraging, with the defense being arguably the weakest area. The high number of goals conceded recently, turned Leeds from a favorite to advance to the Premier League, into a team that struggles in the Championship division.

They’ve recently got a taste of what Premier League matches might look like, when they faced Manchester United in the League cup. Leeds conceded four goals without scoring one and they have only three days to rebound from that awful performance and win the home game against Blackpool. A quick look at the tables will reveal the fact that despite its otherwise mediocre performance in 2012, Leeds has been a consistent side in front of its fans.

Nine victories in 16 games might not be enough to help them promote to the top flight, but should be sufficient for granting them the favorites status tonight. As always, the first half is the most worrisome for Leeds, a team that has conceded a high number of goals in the first minutes. The last thing they need is to chase Blackpool after allowing the visitors to score an early goal, so it comes as no surprise that coach Warnock fields a team featuring just two strikers.

Diouf and McCormack have scored a combined seven goals so far, which is a terrible performance for offensive players who hope to play in the Premier League next season. The midfield can and must carry Leeds tonight, and fortunately for the hosts there are no defensive absentees tonight. For the visitors the situation is rather tricky, as they found it impossible to prevent opponents from scoring goals in the last eight games. Even when they’ve won all three points, they had to settle for a narrow margin victory with goals scored in the final minutes or in the overtime.

Punters need to choose between chasing higher odds and backing Leeds for a straight victory, or taking the cover of an Asian handicap. The advantage of choosing a 0:0 asian handicap that is that in case the match ends in a draw, the investment is returned. Naturally, the odds are decreased below evens but even so they are juicy enough to cover the risk and provide sufficient value to warrant such a wager.

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There are still 15 games remaining in the Premier League, but for some teams the specter of relegation is looming already. Aston Villa is standing on the 17th place, just one spot away from a position that would see them playing in the lower echelon in 2014. Except for Queens Park Rangers who appears to be doomed, their rivals are all capable of overtaking them with minimum effort. Home pitch advantage is pretty much all they’ve got left, and it is particularly important not to leak points against Newcastle.

The reason for why this can easily be regarded as a six-points fixture, is that the two teams are separated by a single point and both of them are struggling to consolidate their position. Another thing that they have in common is the fact that the injury list is growing wider, and the midfield is made mostly of replacements. Results speak for themselves, as Newcastle won just one of the last 10 games, and conceded a record number of goals during the span.

Traveling to Birmingham for a match against the best local team is definitely worrisome, especially with the head to head record being dismal. It’s been more than five years since a traveling team won a match, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, it was the hosts who prevailed. Punters might be tempted to back Aston Villa tonight, and the odds are definitely attractive, but the hosts miss Delph, Albrington, Herd, Gardner and Dunne. While their offensive is intact, the defensive area is full of gaps that the hosts will have to close on a short notice.

A very similar situation is puzzling Newcastle, a team who has all its strikers fit to play but lacks a competitive midfield. The counterattack can be a very powerful weapon in this context, and with both teams having fast strikers, things could easily spin out of control. Newcastle has a reputation of a team who concedes a lot of goals away from home, despite the fact that they score a couple of their own.

The stakes couldn’t be higher and the pressure will only aggravate the fitness issues that have been responsible for a string of negative results. Punters need to choose between backing the hosts at full stakes at odds of 2.05 with Pinnacle Sports and betting on more than 2.5 goals to be scored at identical odds. An interesting hedging strategy involving bets on both outcomes should be considered, because the chances of this match ending in a low scoring draw are insignificant.

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With their city rivals breathing in their neck, Manchester United can’t afford any false steps and losing away at Tottenham would be such a costly mistake. Their opponents are not to be trifled with, as they haven’t lost in almost two months and they have also improved the number of goals scored. While the visitors are aiming another Premier League title, the hosts would gladly settle for a Champions League berth, as the gap separating them from the leader is too wide to close. Having said this, punters should be looking for a low scoring game, despite the fact that bookmakers suggest otherwise.

Except for the most recent results when both teams managed to keep a clean sheet, neither Manchester United nor Tottenham were very successful in the defense. They could count on the fact that their opponents were afraid to make a move against them, but tonight things change dramatically. The visitors will start with Rooney and Hernandez upfront, but having Nani and Valencia right behind them means that Sir Alex Ferguson is basically starting with a 4-2-4 formation. On the other hand, there is always the possibility of a sudden change of plans and United could field the same team that defeated Liverpool.

Either way, Tottenham has plenty of reasons to fear the visitors and will only send Adebayor and Defoe in the offense, while using a standard 4-4-2 squad. The first half is decisive, because if either teams succeed in scoring an early goal, the opponents will be forced to retaliate. Given the high stakes and the considerable pressure bearing on the shoulders of both coaches, we predict a rather quiet first half. If this prediction holds, then punters who go for the under 2.5 goals to be scored, will scoop a nice payout.