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Is De Gea the right man for Man Utd?

May 25, 2011

As Edwin Van der Sar said his goodbyes to the Old Trafford faithful with Sir Alex Ferguson standing alongside him having already offered his tribute to the Dutchman –his moving tribute stretched to calling him a “big lump”  -  the Scot knew he already had in the bag a replacement.

David De Gea, Atletico Madrid’s number 1, has all but completed his £17 million switch to Manchester having been speaking to United for almost two months, and will be confronted with the prospect of filling in for the man who has achieved what most thought was impossible – silencing the voices of discontent that were calling for the days Peter Schmeichel prowled around the Old Trafford area.

Ferguson certainly believes he has the right man for the job, and believes his organisation and composure are remarkably similar his predecessor.

“We identified him quite a while back as one we should go for. He’s young, very quick, good composure, presence and an outstanding replacement for Van der Sar.” He commented after Gary Neville’s testimonial game against Juventus.

“We were looking for the same type of qualities as Edwin, because the one great quality Edwin always had was his composure and organisational ability. David de Gea is very similar that way.” He added.

Craig Gordon, who helped frustrate those in Celtic shirts before his record British transfer fee for a goalkeeper was paid by Sunderland, will know all about the pressure being a goalkeeper with a large price tag brings.

But does that mean he is a ready-made replacement for  Van der Sar? The £17 million fee is the second highest fee ever paid for a goalkeeper behind Buffon, and yet the 20-year-old is yet to win a cap for Spain.

But that won’t be a concern for Ferguson, with Pepe Reina, one of the finest keepers in the world struggling to get a game for his country while Iker Cassillas holds on the gloves. What will be a worry for Ferguson however, is the presence the Spaniard has. Van der Sar was always excellent at patrolling the area and organising his defence, but will a 20-year-old be able to corral the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic into a cohesive unit?

The benefit of his age is obviously that he could be around for a long time and more than repay the £17 million United paid for him. But Guardian journalist summed u the worries that surround De Gea when he wrote on his Twitter page: “He is very, very good but I’m not convinced he is *that* good. Yet.”

It may well be that De Gea can prove his doubters wrong and grow into a winning United side having come from a less successful Atletico Madrid team. It remains to be seen whether he is good enough, but United had a stark reminder of what they could have had in the Chmpions League earlier this season.

Friedel in demand

May 25, 2011

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel is being targeted by a host of Premier League sides as his future in the West Midlands appears uncertain.

It is being reported by those over bigfreebet that Liverpool, with whom the American started his career in England, are joining West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur in the race to secure his services.

Despite reaching the age of 40, the former USA international has been in inspired form for the struggling Villans all season and is keen to extend his playing career by at least another season.

And it appears that Friedel’s future does not lie at Villa Park, as he revealed that he stalled on contract talks following manager Gerard Houllier’s health problems.

He is thought to be unhappy at the uncertainty around the club who have failed to make an impact on the Premier League since the departure of Martin O’Neill.

Before Sunday’s final day victory over Liverpool, the keeper said: “The contract talks at this moment have been put on hold because of Mr Houllier’s health and also the ongoing court case with Martin O’Neill.

“Myself and my advisors wanted to get to safety first and foremost before we started diving into things of that nature.

“I still feel very good, I still think I’ve got a year or two left in the legs and we’ll see what happens.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of my three years here, so we’ll just have to see what the future brings.”

Those over at big free bet note how Friedel spent three years on Merseyside but failed to hold down a regular first team place, making just 25 league appearances.

However, he established himself as Blackburn’s number one in a move to Ewood Park in 2000 and earned a reputation as one of the finest shot-stopper’s in the Premier League.

After 283 appearances for Rovers, the American’s move to Villa has seen him make a further 113 and earlier this season, reached a landmark of starting 250 consecutive league games.

With Jose Reina recently committing his future to Liverpool, it would be unlikely that Friedel would become first choice should he move to Merseyside.

However, a move to Spurs or West Brom could see him take the number one jersey away from Heurelho Gomes or Scott Carson respectively, which may prove a more attractive proposition for the veteran.

What will happen to Almunia?

May 23, 2011

At 34 years old Manuel Almunia still has a few years left in his career if he so wants to play on, but having looked like a beaten figure for much of the campaign after starting as Arsenal’s first choice keeper and ending the season as fourth choice after a youngster, a man who has come back from retirement, and a man who was so poor in previous chances to be number one that he was called ‘Flappyhandski’ by certain sections of the media, Manuel Almunia must surely be so low on confidence that he just wants to hang up his gloves and get out of the football world as soon as he can. Anyone following the Arsenal betting tips will know he hasn’t looked at all solid.

However, while that may arguably be the case, Alumunia has also displayed just a few performances in recent years that have shown him to have a decent amount of talent. Take, for example, his fine individual performances against Barcelona and Manchester United in the Champions League two or so seasons ago. Those following the Premier League betting wouldn’t have thought his fall from grace would be so quick.

In light of this, could Almunia be regarded by a newly promoted side like QPR, who are looking to add a bit of Premier League experience to a squad mainly comprised of lower league players, as a viable transfer prospect?

If Almunia is handed the chance to continue his career, then Arsenal fans would surely be keen to see a man who has acted with such dignity to at least have a final hurrah in a career that has been a disappointment so far, despite his best efforts. If he can do this at a less high-profile Premier League club than the Gunners, surely nobody would begrudge the goalkeeper the chance to finally show that, when the limelight is off, he can really perform at the top level.

Van der Sar ready to celebrate

May 20, 2011

Manchester United may still have the Champions League final to concentrate on this season, but this isn’t going to stop Edwin Van der Sar celebrating the Premier League title this weekend.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men secured 1st place with a point at Blackburn last weekend and they will pick up the trophy after their home game with Blackpool on Sunday.

Van der Sar is going to savour every moment of this final league game, knowing that it will be his last as a Manchester United player. In fact, with retirement around the corner, it will be his final league game as a professional footballer.

The Dutchman missed out on the celebrations somewhat at Ewood Park last weekend – he was rested for the game and replaced by Thomas Kuszczak – but he will be making up for this at Old Trafford on Sunday as he returns to the starting line-up.

Clearly excited about finishing his league career on a high, Van der Sar said: “The feeling comes more when you get the trophy in your hands. To get it in front of 75,000 fans at Old Trafford, it will be an amazing feeling I think.

It is testament to the job Van der Sar has done since joining Manchester United that one of Ferguson’s toughest challenges of the summer is to find a new No.1.

You don’t get many goalkeepers in his mould and much like when Peter Schmeichel left the club, United will have to work hard to find a suitable replacement.

As for the final team he is representing as a player, the former Fulham keeper was full of praise for his team-mates, despite admitting that they haven’t always been at their best this year.

“In certain games, we didn’t play that well or didn’t get results we wanted away from home. But when you have won the league, it doesn’t matter how many points you are ahead of the other teams.”

It is fitting that the 41-year-old has won the league in his final year as a player, bowing out while on top of his game and on a massive high. The final few weeks of his career could get even better too if he is involved in a Champions League final victory later this month.

For now though, he is ready to celebrate the Premier League title as he plays in front of the Old Trafford crowd for the final time.

Elsewhere, why not check out some Free Scratch Cards this weekend. Maybe the money you win can go towards Van der Sar getting a season ticket at Old Trafford next year?!

James makes himself available for international selection

May 13, 2011

David James, a man who has carved a career for himself out of making high-profile errors for both club and country in between the sticks that even the likes of Heurelho Gomes would be proud to look back on in his back catalogue of bloopers, has revealed that he would love to play for his country again one day if called upon by the England boss.

James’s revelation came after the announcement earlier this week from Ben Foster that he is planning on putting his international career on hold until further notice so that he can provide himself with the best chance possible of enjoying a long and successful career at club level. As those who follow the international football betting will know,

With the Birmingham goalkeeper revealing that now is the right time for him to focus upon his efforts at his club, the 28-year-old has, in many people’s minds, written off his chances of ever working his way into Fabio Capello’s plans again, with the England manager widely known to take a hard line stance on individuals who seem not to care about wearing the shirt.

It would seem that the presence of the seemingly unmovable Joe Hart in the England goal has not been enough to dissuade James from offering his services to the international squad once more, despite being on the wrong side of 40 and plying his trade in the Championship with Bristol City. As anyone who follows the Champions League betting odds will know, international keepers need to be playing week in week out at the highest level.

Should Capello decide that, to move forward, England actually need to take a step back in the form of David James, England fans could yet be calling out for the return of Ben Foster, no matter how unlikely that seems.

Can Hart handle the FA Cup pressure?

May 12, 2011

He may be England’s number one, and he may be on the verge of helping his club side to the Champions League next season, but Manchester City keeper Joe Hart has a lot to prove.

Given he has achieved so much in his short career it seems odd to suggest that Hart is set to be anything other than a top keeper, but he still has a lot to prove. After all, anyone who has followed Manchester City will know that Hart hasn’t been entirely consistent this season. In fact, he went through a fairly significant drop in form earlier in the season and at one point looked like he might actually be dropped.

Hart responded well to the dip in form and the criticism that followed it, upping his game and ensuring that his side were able to put a firm stamp on the top four – although some pundits would no doubt argue they should have put in a major title challenge. The FA Cup final betting though suggests they will pick up a trophy.

However, this weekend the young goalkeeper will face a test that the Premier League cannot fully prepare him for – the FA Cup final. Although Hart has already shown he is able to cope with a great deal of pressure, his performance in the semi-final against Manchester United demonstrated that.

The final itself though brings a whole new level of pressure and often this tells most when it comes to the man between the sticks. If Hart wilts amid the Wembley tension and allows Stoke to snatch a crucial goal it could be that his career, which now looks like it is only going in one direction, suddenly starts to backslide.

As it is, all eyes will be on the young England keeper to see if he really can cope with the pressure that the highest level of football brings.

Hart calls for cup success

May 11, 2011

Joe Hart has called on his Manchester City team-mates to follow up on their successful qualification for next season’s Champions League, and win the first major piece of silverware in 35 years. City’s 1-0 victory against Tottenham this week has made sure they will finish in at least fourth place in the Premier League, ensuring Champions League football will be played at Eastlands next season. The battle will be on City to go on and lift the FA Cup trophy this Saturday when they face Stoke in what the football odds suggest could be an interesting game.

Hart was delighted to have achieved the club’s first part of the plan set out for the club this season, the goalkeeper now hoping to reward City’s loyal fans with their first piece of silverware since the 1976 League Cup.

“Qualifying for the Champions League means the world. We are the players and we are employed to give performances and get results and regardless of the money spent by the club, we are a team and we have shown that,” he said.

“We now need a trophy and that is this Saturday. We got this tonight and we now need to give these fans a trophy.”

In his first full season as City’s first choice keeper, Hart has certainly backed Mancini’s decision to opt for the 24-year-old ahead of the experienced Shay Given. The FA Cup final betting indicates he will have a huge role to play in the game.

The usual routine of English goalkeepers being questioned by the media should he make a single mistake has been and gone for Hart, with the impressive youngster proving his quality and ability to bounce straight back from any previous mistake, although they have been few and far between this season. Lifting the FA Cup this weekend would round off a thoroughly successful season for Hart on both a personal and team level. Stoke will certainly be well aware of the task they will have in finding away past City’s young stopper.

Sorensen out to prove a point

May 10, 2011

Thomas Sorensen will reclaim his position between the sticks for Stoke when the club line-up against Manchester City at the weekend. The Danish stopper has been forced to watch the majority of this campaign from the bench after the emergence of Asmir Begovic.

With Tony Pulis opting for the young Bosnian over the experienced Dane for the club’s Premier League campaign, it has been the FA Cup where Sorensen has been given his limited game time. That will continue into the final and Sorensen has been assured of his place at Wembley by manager Pulis. Anyone looking to place FA Cup bets should remember how vital a good goalkeeping performance will be.

The 34-year old has been a major factor behind Stoke FA Cup success this season and will be looking to see the job through against City this weekend. The future after that is far from clear however. After such limited opportunities this season, Sorensen has been vocal in his disenchantment as playing second fiddle at this stage in his career.

With one-year left on his contract, Sorensen may attempt this summer to engineer one final move in his career, in the search for first-team football more than anything else. His manager Pulis has expressed his understanding of the frustrations shown by Sorensen but remains hopeful of convincing the veteran to stay beyond the summer.

He said: “Thomas is a top goalkeeper. He is captain of Denmark and wants to play every week. It is always going to be a little bit frustrating when you are not. Asmir has come in and done smashing. That is what competition is all about.”

Keeper has faith in Wigan

May 9, 2011

Wigan Athletic are still facing a massive fight against relegation from the Premier League, but their goal keeper Ali Al Habsi reckons they have done enough to avoid the drop.

The Latics have been sitting down the wrong end of the table for virtually the entire season but Roberto Martinez has done well to keep morale high and keep them scrapping until the end.

With two games to go they are one point off safety and now face a massive Premier League relegation six-pointer against rock-bottom West Ham at the DW Stadium this weekend.

If Wigan want to avoid relegation then three points from this game is vital and they could condemn the Hammers to the Championship also, but it is dog-eat-dog coming into the business end of the season, as those looking to bet on Premier League weekend games will know.

Al Habsi, who has been one bright spark for Martinez’s team this season, told the Evening Post he thinks the draw with Aston Villa last time out could play a “huge part” going into the West Ham game and confidence took a boost as a result and the Premier League tips reflect this.

“We are playing fantastic football – not just at the moment but for most of the season. We have been unlucky at times not to get the results we have deserved, but we are not out of it yet,” the Oman stopper added.

“The team, the manager, everyone deserves to be playing in this league – and we will do everything we can to make it happen.”

Martinez recently challenged his Wigan players to step up over the remaining weeks of the season, claiming they are in control of their own destiny as they look to avoid Premier relegation on May 22nd.

FA Cup set to be graced by two great keepers

April 29, 2011

Although much of the focus in the run up to the FA Cup final will no doubt be on the men who are expected to score the goals, those between the sticks will have an even more important roll to play as they look to keep a clean sheet.

In the case of Manchester City they will, all things being well, have one of the most well-respected goalkeepers in the Premier League trying to keep the Stoke strikers out. Joe Hart has enjoyed a fantastic season, both for his club and England, for whom he had made the number one shirt his own.

That said, his season has been far from perfect and he was criticised by Roberto Mancini earlier in the year when he seemed to be going through a poor spell of form. But, to his credit, Hart responded well to the comments and has arguably been even better after them. Anyone looking to bet on FA Cup should remember this.

His opposite number hasn’t had such a good season though. Although Thomas Sorensen is one of the most respected Premier League keepers around, he hasn’t been able to cement his place in the side this season.

Instead, Amir Begovic has taken the gloves in the league and acquitted himself well. Sorensen will no doubt be disappointed by this, but manager Tony Pulis has handed him first team duties during the FA Cup, meaning the Dane has every chance of ending the season with his hands on a trophy, something he certainly won’t be complaining about.

Although it might be tempting to suggest that Hart’s match practice this season will mean he’s less likely to drop a clanger during the final, Sorensen’s experience will more than make up for that. Those looking for FA Cup best bets should bear this in mind.

As it stands, fans of great goalkeeping are in for a real treat at Wembley.

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