Chelsea’s Title Chase (and Where to Eat in London) with Graeme Le Saux

Leave a comment

He’s one of Jersey’s favorite sons. Not that Jersey. This one. Graeme Le Saux knows a little something about English football, making 327 Premier League appearances for Southampton, Chelsea and Blackburn, helping bring the latter a title in ‘94 – ’95. These days Graeme plays the Goose to Arlo White’s Maverick on NBC’s Premier League coverage (Sorry, Lee Dixon, you’re Merlin). We caught up with Graeme via phone this week to talk about Chelsea’s title chase, his favorite gantry in the Premier League, and his (very) short stint working in the kitchen of a high-end London eatery.

MiB: You’ve spoken with Antonio Conte since he took the Chelsea job, and have gotten a sense of the kind of person he is. How has he been able to adapt to the Premier League in a way that Pep Guardiola has not?

GLS: Antonio Conte gives me the impression that he’s a very honest, fair manager, who is happy to confront issues head on, confident in his own opinion. He’s very experienced in dealing with big players, and what he’s done brilliantly is treat everybody fairly. As Pep is finding out, you can have the most incredible CV and philosophy on the game, but ultimately you’ve still got to work with a group and be flexible with them, in terms of your own philosophy. That’s where Conte has been ahead of everyone else.

MiB: The Diego Costa situation. He’s injured. He’s had a bust up with Conte. He’s off to China. All these rumors, yet he’s back in the team and scoring on the weekend. How damaging can this be to team chemistry?

GLS: It can be very damaging. It really can. But I think Conte’s leadership has really helped. And Costa must’ve explained himself to the players, or they would have held him accountable for wanting to leave at such an important stage of the season, if it was true. When he scored against Hull, the whole team went over and celebrated with him. For me, that suggests they’ve accepted whatever he’s said behind closed doors.

MiB: If one of these teams in the chasing peloton were to challenge Chelsea, who do you think it could be?

GLS: Tottenham. Their fundamentals are so good and they came so close last year. That pain serves as good fuel for this season. When I look at Arsenal, I still think they’re not a team with the resilience to keep plowing through the football calendar and come out with more points than Chelsea. Liverpool gives us a lot of excitement, because they score a lot of goals, but there are defensive liabilities. To lose to Swansea the way they did last weekend, with the game tied at two and all of the momentum, that’s damaging for a title run. Manchester United have found some fantastic form, but they fell so far behind at the start of the season. To make up that deficit would be a miracle.

MiB: Now to the important stuff. What’s the best gantry in the Premier League and why?

GLS: Oh my word. Let’s be honest, it’s not like choosing between a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. They’re all quite rudimentary. I’m thinking, probably which ones are the least cold and best position. I know Spurs are redeveloping their ground, but I like their current gantry because you almost hang over the pitch. Everton’s is fantastic as well because you’re stuck out from the middle tier, so you’re connected to the pitch. Either of those would be my pick.

MiB: Best restaurant near Stamford Bridge. What are we ordering?

GLS: One of my favorite restaurants in London is The River Cafe. It’s run by a fantastic chef Ruthie Rodgers. It’s about 10 minutes by car from Stamford Bridge on the River Thames. I’ve actually done a shift in their kitchen when I was a player at Chelsea. I told them I was tired after a game and they said, “You don’t know what tired is. Come do a double-shift in the restaurant.” I took them up on it and worked in the restaurant one day. They had me doing all the dirty jobs. By the end I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get my boots back on. For a dish, they do the most amazing beef with split olives and ragù lentil. It’s phenomenal.

Brazil, Germany are now co-favorites on 2018 World Cup odds

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A dip in their price has brought Brazil level with defending champion Germany at +450, making them co-favorites on the odds to win the 2018 World Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With the quadrennial competition for global soccer supremacy just more than one month away from kicking off in Russia, the top of the World Cup betting lines also includes Spain (+600), France (+700), Argentina (+900), Belgium (+1100), England (+1600) and Portugal (+2500).

While no nation has won back-to-back since Brazil did so with a young Pelé in 1958 and ’62, Germany remains the team to beat, with Leroy Sane of EPL champion Manchester City drawing into a lineup that includes main holdovers from their triumphant 2014 team.

Brazil has its strong history with a record five World Cup titles, but there is the troubling matter of star Neymar, of Paris Saint-Germain, having been sidelined since suffering a knee injury in February.

The debate over the joint favorites could draw heat away from Spain. The 2010 champion has a potential X factor in goalkeeper David de Gea of Manchester United and looks strong along the back line and through the midfield, where Andres Iniesta has one last shot at glory.

The major question about Spain is whether it will have enough natural offense, since neither striker option, Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa, has had much international success.

France has lost key defender Laurent Koscielny to a major Achilles tendon injury, which might be reason enough to fade Les Bleus. Argentina has the star power of Lionel Messi, but the manner in which it struggled just to qualify for the tournament – going down to the last game, in fact – hardly seems auspicious.

Each of the top six teams on the board has won the World Cup at least once. Belgium has the lowest odds of any non-champion, but it was a quarterfinalist in both 2014 and at Euro 2016 and has strong leadership from forward Eden Hazard. Belgium is worth considering for a darkhorse play.

England is in the same group with Belgium and last got past the quarterfinal in 1986. Similarly, Portugal has only been to the semifinals once in the last eight World Cups.

A true darkhorse worth considering is Croatia (+3300), whose price owes to being drawn into the tough Group D that also includes Argentina, Iceland (+15000) and Nigeria (+20000). Croatia, which has Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic shoring up the midfield, was undefeated at the group stage of Euro 2016 before losing out against eventual winner Portugal.

The World Cup begins June 14, with the final set for July 15 in Moscow.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

EPL Week Betting Preview: Man City Slim Favorite Facing Tottenham

Leave a comment

The recency factor might point to Tottenham Hotspur and Harry Kane instead of Manchester City, which is lagging after having run out front all season.

Manchester City is a super-slim +150 favorite with Tottenham Hotspur coming back at +160 and the draw offers +255 on the three-way moneyline for this English Premier League betting matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

However, Tottenham has yet to lose an EPL match since January 1, while Manchester City has lost three games in a row and has seen its ambition of an EPL/Champions League double go up in smoke.

Four of the last five matchups between the Citizens and Spurs have had at least three goals with both teams scoring. The over on the 3.0 total still offers +105. There should be scoring. Tottenham is also even-money on the draw no bet prop, offering a fallback to Spurs backers in the event of a tie.

The twist for the matchup between relegation-threatened Southampton (+345) and Chelsea (-120, +255 draw) is that the sides will soon meet again in an upcoming F.A. Cup semifinal. Southampton will have to play desperate attacking football, which makes both the over (2.5 total) and Chelsea on the goals line (-1.5) worth considering.

Burnley (+155) will not have captain Ben Mee in the center of its back four for a big match against Leicester City (+195, +210 draw). Each team is healthy up front, though, which means the over on the 2.0 total should hit. Both teams have scored in five of Burnley’s last seven home games and in 10 of Leicester’s last 12 away games.

Huddersfield Town (+160) and Watford (+180, +215 draw) are on five- and four-match winless streaks and have both been porous defensively. Neither team is more than a hunch play but taking the -140 over on the 2.0 total seems self-explanatory since eight of their last nine matchups have had three or more goals.

Swansea City (+150) catches Everton (+195, +210 draw), who is struggling to create scoring chances and has won just two of 16 away games in the league. Swansea City needs the full three points and also has Jordan Ayew back as a potential finisher.

Newcastle (+220) has won only one of its last 22 matchups against Arsenal (+115, +255 draw), whom it hosts in a Sunday betting matchup. Newcastle has an excellent chance to end the drought, since Arsenal seems to be saving itself for Europa League. Newcastle’s draw no bet price is a still-generous +135.

And West Ham United (-105) faces last-place Stoke City (+295, +240 draw) in a Monday betting matchup with a chance to solidify its place in the 2018-19 EPL. West Ham forward Marko Arnatovic is facing his former team, making him worth looking at in goal scorer props.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.