Golf fans are spoiled this week with two tournaments going on at the same time. While the top 64 in the world are go head-to-head in Texas at the World Golf Championship, former greats and journeymen alike are heading to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Open. One of the weakest fields of the year will tee it up at the course formerly known as Trump International now changed to The Coco Beach Golf & Country Club. Controversial Presidents aside, Coco Beach sounds more like a holiday resort where you drink Piña Coladas and dance and not a course to host a PGA Tour event. The highest ranked players in the field this week and thus favorites to win are Graeme McDowell and Wesley Bryan. Mcdowell's former Ryder Cup teammate Ian Poulter, probably smarting from not being able to show his famed match play skills at the WGC Match Play, is also in the field. Poulter tied for 3rd in this event last year after leading at the 54-hole stage and is playing decent golf this season. It's about time Poulter won again and in one of the weaker fields of the year, this could be his week.
Can Australia's John Sended finally break through with a win in 2017?
The smart money for the week will be on Scott Brown at 33-1.
Brown was runner-up at Riviera a month ago in the Genesis Open but two missed cuts since. He clearly loves the Puerto Rico Open event having played well here every year. For those looking for an outside bet, Camilo Villegas might get some inspiration from being back in a Spanish-speaking country and his length will be an advantage on one of the longer courses of the year.
Check the latest odds and betting markets in the PGA Golf Tour The Coco Beach course, with wide fairways and large greens, will allow wayward players to prosper this week. And being a par 72, the winner will be the one who eats up the par-5's. The only protection for the coastal course to stop it being ripped to shreds by the professionals is the wind. Rio Grande is usually windy this time of year so you'll see the palm leaves fluttering; another reason to bet on Mcdowell who will feel like he's playing a links course back home in Northern Ireland. The weathermen have forecast rain this week, which will slow the greens down and make the tournament a birdie fest. Wind is predicted to blow in the 9-11mph range so nothing British Open-like. The wind will blow stronger as the day progresses so bet on players who draw favorable tee times - out early on Thursday or Friday - to do well. Winning scores range widely at the Puerto Rico open with Scott Brown and Chesson Hadley posting 20- and 21-under in 2013 and '14, while Tony Finau won shot 12-under last year and Alex Cejka won with 7-under in 2015 when gales almost caused the tournament to be cancelled. Cajka's win gives some hints to what could happen this week: if the wind blows, bet on an experienced European player and a low score. But if conditions stay calm, get ready for a winning score in the 20-under range from a first-time winner.
The A-League’s top team travel to Perth, with the distinct possibility of clinching the Premier Plate with a win.
With second placed Melbourne Victory playing Brisbane the day before this game, anything less than a victory for the Victory will see the Plate go to Sydney.
What better incentive for Graham Arnold and his men to go for the three points, but they will not have things their own way.
Perth Glory look to have their Finals place all locked up, and a win against the runaway Ladder leaders would send a message to any possible opponents they would face. Perth also have Irish sharpshooter Andy Keogh in their side, but Keogh will have to be at his best to pierce what is a formidable Sydney defence, who have kept clean sheets in their last two games.
Sydney have also lost just one game, and with Bobo in their side, they also have a weapon that rarely misfires. Arnold will have told his charges that it is best to wrap up the Premier Plate as quickly as they can, but with a home draw for finishing fourth in the Ladder still open for the Glory, this game is poised for a cracker.
Milos Ninkovic has been in great form too for Sydney and with he and Bobo proving a real handful for opposition, Perth will need Josh Risdon and Rhys Williams to marshall the defence as tightly as possible.
The odds for a Perth victory are quite high, but a good bet would be for Sydney to win and keep a clean sheet, with Stan James offering 7/2 for a win to nil.
This result may see the Premier Plate decided, but both teams still have much to play for. Perth will want to spoil the party and make things a little easier for the Finals Series, and Sydney will want that trophy wrapped up.
When Mixed Martial Arts champion Alistair Overeem was once asked to predict the winner of his next fight, his response surprised reporters: "In general, heavyweight MMA is a 50-50 coin toss" While professional golf is a long way from cage fighting, head-to-head over 18 holes at WGC Match Play has been equally hard to predict in the past. How else can you explain the greatest match play player of all time (Tiger Woods) losing to Peter O'Malley and Nick O'Hern (twice) in this tournament? Tiger's Ryder Cup singles record is also uninspiring. As pro golfers like to remind us: "18 holes in a sprint not a marathon: but the golfing powers that be have changed the format of the format of the WGC Match Play in recent years to keep the upsets to a minimum. This ensures the top players make it through to the knockout stages on the weekend and boost the TV ratings. These days the top 16 players from the world golf rankings are placed in 16 World-Cup-style groups along with three lower ranked players. Everybody in the group plays each other and the winner of the group enters the draw to the last 16 beginning on Saturday.
If this format works, the top seeds - Dustin Johnson, Rory Mcllroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, et al. - should go through. But golf is played on grass not paper and Johnson will have to get out of the "group of death", while Day has no easy ride having to face Westwood, Perez and Leishman. Another favorite, Jordan Spieth, despite not being the strongest match play player - as we saw in the Ryder Cup singles - has the advantage of playing on the course he played as college player at the University Of Texas.
Possible top seeds going home after the group stage could be Johnson playing in the toughest group, Mickelson who has a surprisingly inconsistent match play record, Danny Willet who has struggled since clinching last year's US Masters, and Sergio Garcia: despite his good form this season and epic match against Mickelson at the last Ryder Cup. The following players could offer surprises this week:
Patrick Reed: who proved at the Ryder Cup he's a hell of a match play player
Thomas Pieters: despite missing the cut at Bay Hill he will enjoy playing match play again after his breakout performance in the Ryder Cup
Brandt Snedeker: no player will look forward to drawing one of the best putters in the field
Louis Oosthuizen: has a good record in this tournament and is as solid as they come
Gary Woodland: his booming drives carried him to the final in 2015
Rafa Cabrera Bello: another European rookie at the last Ryder Cup who is tough to beat in one-on-one match play
The third and final test of this series between New Zealand and South Africa is about to get underway under a cloud of injury. New Zealand has added Tim Southee to its list of injured players and is still waiting on confirmation about the availability of Trent Boult.
South Africa is also holding its cards close and not making any disclosures about Quinton de Kock’s finger injury, but there is a good chance he will not feature in this last test.
So with all that in mind, what can we expect from the two teams at Hamilton?
South Africa is leading the series 1-0 and knows that it has an excellent chance of maintining its historical dominance over the Black Caps. The hosts, on the other hand, will be desperate to equalize the series and keep their excellent home record this season intact.
The problem area for the both the teams has been their batting. In Tom Latham, New Zealand seems to have a walking wicket as the young Kiwi opener is yet to show any sign of form. Jeet Raval is the only player that has passed fifty twice in this series for New Zealand so far and shown the patience needed to tackle a good South African attack.
The gun batsman for New Zealand is Kane Williamson. He has 133 runs in the series so far at an average of 44.33 but 130 of those runs have come in a single inning. Similarly, Henry Nicholls with 137 runs in the series so far has scored 118 in one outing.
This shows that New Zealand is struggling to get consistency from its batsmen and not giving its bowlers enough to play with. The inclusion of two all-rounders in its playing eleven seems to be making its batting more vulnerable now that the opposition boasts of a quality bowling attack.
Neil Wagner with 9 wickets and Jeet Patel with 5 have been the stand out bowlers for New Zealand. Patel and Santner can expect to play a much bigger role in Hamilton where the pitch is expected to aid the spinners throughout.
South Africa has problems with its batting order as well... Stephen Cook barely resembles a test quality player in current form, while Hashim Amla and JP Duminy continue to struggle with run making. They had been bailed out by de Kock and Bavuma in the first innings of the second test, a partnership that proved to be match winning in the end.
With de Kock, a doubtful starter for this match, the responsibility on the other batsmen will only increase. Luckily for South Africa, Amla showed some excellent touch in the small chaser to win the second test.
The start of the bowling effort has been Keshav Maharaj with 13 wickets as he made the most of the dry, spin friendly conditions on offer while the returning Morne Morkel has been excellent as well. Vernon Philander has only two wickets to show for his efforts so far but his line and length has been impeccable.
We think that by opting for a dry surface in Hamilton, New Zealand is hoping to play in conditions that South Africa does not like rather than trying to play to its own strengths. We think there is enough quality in this South African unit to overcome New Zealand on this surface as well.
Our Resident Expert's Tips
Back South Africa To Win. (Latest odds put Sth Africa at $2.50 and NZ at $5 for a straight win) New Zealand 1st Innings Top Run Scorer – Jeet Raval South Africa 1st Innings Top Run Scorer – Faf Du Plessis New Zealand 1st Innings Top Wicket Taker – Jeet Patel South Africa 1st Innings Top Wicket Taker – Morne Morkel
The Sheffield Shield final is about to get underway from the 26th of March and even though the Australian test team will be playing test cricket in India, a lot of people will be following the culmination of the most prestigious domestic competition in the world. Victoria will take on South Australia in what is poised to be a cracker of a match. The favorites Victoria beat the same opposition last year and will be looking to become the first Victorian team to win the title for the third year in succession. South Australia has had a bit of a roller coaster ride into the final but with Tom Copper and Callum Ferguson available to play their first Sheffield Shield final, would be confident of winning this match. The venue for this match is Traeger Park in Alice Springs, a venue where spin is expected to play a major part in the proceedings. It is no surprise then that both Victoria and South Australia have added an extra spinner into their squad. Fawad Ahmed has only played one match for Victoria this season but has taken 5 wickets at an average of 11.20 at the same venue. South Australia has added Tom Andrews to partner Adam Zampa, who has taken 27 wickets in the season at an average of 32.88 so far. The stand out bowler among the two teams has been South Australia’s Chadd Sayers who leads the wickets tally with 54 scalps to his name at an average of 19.20. He would be the favorite to take the most wickets in this match as well, however, we think that backing aggressive leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed might be worth the risk. Ahmed can go for a lot of runs and bowl some utter rubbish at times but is also capable of bowling the truly unplayable deliveries. Another bowler to look out for in this match will be James Pattinson who destroyed the Queensland side, taking 5 for 7 in the last match that he played. His extra pace and late swing make him deadly dangerous and our pick to pick the most wickets from the Victorian side in this match. When it comes to the batting, Victoria has some big names like Aaron Finch, Cameron White and Travis Dean in its side. White will be the captain in place of Mathew Wade, who is away on international duty. Our pick to score the most runs for Victoria in the final is Aaron Finch who is having an excellent red ball season and has scored 460 runs at 51.11 so far. For South Australia, Tom Cooper has scored the most runs this season followed by Jake Lehman. Carey and Ferguson have also scored close to 500 runs each to give this South Australia side a formidable batting lineup. Backing Tom Cooper may be the safe way to go but that is what we would recommend for top run scorer from the South Australian side. Callum Ferguson is also a good option for someone who is a little more adventurous, though. These are two closely matched teams and even though Victoria is the more favored team here, we think that South Australia is peaking at just the right time.
Back South Australia to win the Sheffield Shield final.
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This match in the EPL sees third placed Manchester City take on fourth placed Liverpool, with both eager to assert their dominance over the other and establish themselves in the top 4 of the league standings.
Pep Guardiola’s City side slid out of the Champions League in midweek after losing on away goals to Monaco in the Last16, and Guardiola will be looking to ensure that his team bounce straight back from this disappointment.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are a Jekyll and Hyde outfit this season. When playing their fellow big clubs, the Reds look irresistible and rarely lose. When they play clubs that are far smaller in stature and are expected to win however, Klopp has seen his side become disjointed and struggle to show their strength. Their last two games - a 3-1 win over Arsenal and an insipid and quite lucky 2-1 win over Burnley - show this perfectly.
So Manchester City will be fully prepared for a Liverpool which will press and harry them into errors. They will also be aware that Liverpool will have far more energy than they will, after City’s efforts against Monaco just days ago.
Manchester may recall midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure, after he missed out the loss against Monaco, but Gabriel Jesus is still ruled out with a foot injury, so Sergio Aguero will continue to play in the striker role. Not a bad deputy to have!
Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson again, but Roberto Firmino may make the team. Daniel Sturridge has missed the majority of the season and he is still ruled out.
Both teams promise goals and thrills, with defending low on priority. This match really is a must see, and the result will send ripples through the EPL.
India took the honors on day 3 but Australia still has its nose ahead in this test match. A massive lead of 331, a deteriorating pitch and the possibility of Virat Kohli being hampered still makes Australia the favourite in our eyes.
3rd Test, Day 3 Betting Preview & Match Summary
Australia will be bowling to Pujara and Vijay first up on Day 3 and the duo can be very hard to dislodge. They have the necessary technique and experience to bat for long durations, something that India will be desperately hoping for them to do.
We think that while V9ijay looks good for a big score, maybe even a hundred, Pujara could be found out by Pat Cummins’s express pace. We think a wicket could fall for India before they reach 150 on the board.
From then on, India could be very vulnerable and ripe for the picking. The third day is when the pitch is going to start spinning more while the bounce is also expected to get lower and lower.With Virat Kohli unsure to bat at 4, one wicket could soon become three or four. A bet on India being kept under 300 might seem outrageous seeing the current total, but we believe there is a very good chance that could happen. Of course, that would also mean that the Aussie bowlers had a very good day.
Pat Cummins is looking a million bucks on his return to test cricket but his poor fitness record makes him someone Steve Smith will be very careful about over using. Still, the Indian tail will find Cummins very difficult to negotiate and he could pick up 2-3 easy wickets.
Nathan Lyon cam close to picking Murali Vijay a couple of times on day 2 and looked like getting among the wickets all the time. He is our pick for the bowler most likely to take the most wickets in this innings.
We think it is safe to assume that Virat Kohli will walk out to bat at number 4, but think he will find batting tough. There is no doubting Kohli’s talent or skill but this injury could cause him to change his normal gameplay and get out cheaply.
The other Indian batsmen to follow, Rahane, Nair, and Saha do not inspire much confidence in us either. Rahane is coming off a good innings but is quite poor against spin, while Nair seems to be a touch too impetuous to consistently succeed. Of all these three we think Saha is the best bet to score a fifty plus score base on current form but he too is notoriously inconsistent. This game will test the patience of Australia and could be a very different game of cricket after the frenetic first two test matches but the visitors are still the camp to be in. A big first innings lead will almost guarantee that Australia cannot lose this match and also give them a great chance of winning.
Australia has made a fantastic start towards winning the second test match thanks to another brilliant century by Steve Smith, ably supported by a remarkable comeback innings by Glenn Maxwell.
So, what lies in store for Day 2?
The pitch is expected to be at its best for batting on Day 2 and we fully expect Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell to cash in on the conditions. Steve Smith is answering calls of cheating from the Indian captain in the best manner possible and so is even more motivated than normal. We think that backing Smith to score above 170 plus is a safe bet especially since the Indian bowlers will be bowling without too many attacking fielders around. Glenn Maxwell is currently in the middle of his longest innings in any International game in terms of balls faced and should be able to reach his hundred without any trouble. There is a chance though that he may get more adventurous and throw away his wicket after that.
Once a wicket falls, though, India could run through the lower batting order. There is only Mathew Wade to follow and he has been in terrible form, while the absence of Starc from the tail makes it unlikely to offer much resistance.
We think that India might be able to restrict the Australians for 400-430 runs.
The Indian bowlers struggled to extract anything from this pitch after the first session and that is unlikely to change on Day 2. The most likely bowler to take wickets on such a surface is Ravi Ashwin. He has a couple of left-handers to aim at and his variation will make more of a threat than the eerily accurate Ravindra Jadeja.
Backing Ashwin to get the most wickets might seem like an obvious bet but we believe it is the right call to make.
India can expect to bat at some time tomorrow on Day 2 and depending upon where the Australian total ends up, they could be facing a massive task ahead of them. There is also the Virat Kohli injury to consider.
He was off the field for most of Day 1 after hurting his shoulder diving on the field and we do not know if or how much of an impact it will have on his batting. The other Indian batsmen will have to step up if Kohli is going to be compromised.
K L Rahul is in good form, however, we think that he was lucky to have got the number of runs that he did. His partner, Mural Vijay is returning from injury but has been one of the best Indian batsmen in recent times.
Backing him to get the highest score of the innings is taking a chance but it may be worth the risk. He will have the best conditions to bat on against a hard new ball that should race off the bat. Of course, he has to first get by against an in-form Josh Hazelwood and the express Pat Cummins as well.
Our pick for top-wicket taker in the Australian side is Steve O’Keefe, who should be able to exploit the conditions to his liking. The second day of the test promises to be another enthralling one and also where Australia could begin the end of Indian dominance at home.
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Arsenal travel to the Hawthorns to take on seventh placed West Brom, in a match that the Gunners cannot afford to lose.
Manager Arsene Wenger can at least reflect on a victory last week rather than a loss, and last weekend’s FA Cup victory over non-league Lincoln City has given Arsenal some optimism as they can now look forward to a trip to Wembley and a real chance for silverware.
With fellow contenders for the top four - Manchester City and Liverpool - duking it out, it means that at least one of them will drop points and open a window for Arsenal to jump nearer to the Champions League places. Arsenal do have two games in hand over fourth placed Liverpool, but are five points behind the Reds.
All provided that the Gunners defeat West Brom
This won’t be an easy task, as Tony Pulis has organised West Brom rigidly, and their league position shows that the Baggies are a formidable outfit indeed.
Arsenal will have few injury worries, but Santi Cazorla is ruled out for the season. Mohamed Elneny has returned from his ankle injury and could be involved in the squad, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs will have fitness tests before the game to judge whether they can take part.
Aside from this, Arsene Wenger can afford to rotate his team, but with their last game a week ago, every player should be fit and raring to go. This means a return to fitness for playmaker Mesut Ozil after a bout of sickness.
Tony Pulis is sweating on the fitness of one of his brightest lights this season. Winger Matty Phillips looks to be out of the game with a hamstring injury, but striker Salomon Rondon will be ready to give Arsenal’s back four a rigorous examination.
The Gunners have lost three of their last four Premiership games, and are in real danger of losing ground on those coveted spots in the top four.
West Brom could well decide much for Arsenal, and for Arsene Wenger .
The last matches of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 will be this third week of March, on tuesday 14th. We already lived the week before the epic 6-1 comeback of FC Barcelona after having lost 4-0 against PSG, it was something incredible, a lifetime memory. But this week, 2 of the last 4 games are very interesting, especially for punters.
The matches that interest us are Juventus vs. Porto in Italy, and the second leg of Leicester City (EPL champion) vs Sevilla at King Power Stadium.
Leicester City Vs. Seville in England
The current champion of the Premier League receives at home one of the most dangerous Spanish teams of the moment. Sevilla already won against Leicester at home, but it was only by 1 goal, the match ended 2-1 in favor of the spanish team. That difference of a single goal gives a much clearer advantage to Leicester City, they should only score a pair of goals to move to the next round. It's not such a difficult task, but Leicester has the advantage of being at home, they have a new manager and they know how Sevilla plays.
The spanish team knows that if Leicester City score 1 goal, things will get very complicated. Leicester has already won at home in Champions League matches, last season they eliminated a couple of major teams.
Before losing to Sevilla 2-1, Leicester City had already received a strong beating at Porto's home, losing 5-0 after having won 1-0 at Porto in Week Two of the Champions League. But things are not so bad for Leicester, despite not having many recent wins at home in the current season of the Champions League (1-0 Porto, 1-0 Kobenhavn, 2-1 Club Brugge), they are a team with aspirations to move to the next round, especially after the departure of manager Claudio Ranieri.
Things have improved a lot following the departure of Ranieri in the Premier League, Leicester City has won two major matches against Liverpool 3-1 and Hull City 3-1, both matches served to end a painful streak without goals or wins in the first EPL weeks of 2017.
The Best Bets for Round 16
All the new energy that Leicester City has will be of great help against Sevilla. The home team can easily keep the Spanish team against the wall and win the match. Leicester City +0.75 with 1.57 odds.