Italy serious contenders for Euros title

Roberto Mancini’s Italy have proven themselves to be legitimate contenders for the upcoming Euros.

Undefeated in 28 matches, they’ve been exceptionally hard to beat, as Mancini has formed a balanced, disciplined and spirited team. Having been in charge for 33 games, the fact Mancini’s men have only conceded 14 goals while scoring 82 goals illustrates their quality.

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Breezing through qualifying for the tournament by winning all 10 of their matches, plus beating Turkey comprehensively in their Euro opener 3-0, they have proved what a force they are to be reckoned with.

Placed in a challenging group that contains Switzerland, Wales and Turkey for the Euros, they’ll be wary not to underestimate their foes even though they should comfortably progress.

Considering all their matches are on home soil at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, this should work in their favour and further enhances their chances of not only progressing but also topping their group.

Courtesy of Wiki Comms

Littered with a nice blend of youth and experience, Mancini’s 4-3-3 has class in all areas of the pitch, which sees them operate well both defensively and offensively. In goal Gianluigi Donnarumma will be the starter, as he’ll be ably supported by Alessandro Florenzi, Leonardo Spinazzola, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

Then, in midfield, their starting three is nothing short of exceptional, as Jorginho, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti give them plenty of control, balance and the ability to carve open defensive units.

Federico Chiesa, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne will form an exciting front three, as they provide plenty of dynamism, skill and goal threat in the final third.

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Their squad importantly has depth all over too, with the likes of Giacomo Raspadori, Domenico Berardi, Andrea Belotti, Bryan Cristante and Alessandro Bastoni ensuring they’re stocked in all areas.

Priced at $12 to become European champions, the bookies give them a reasonable shout of winning. But with the likes of France, England, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Portugal also right up there, the Azzurri will need to be at their best to be victorious.

In blistering form and with a tremendous collective spirit, Italy have earned their place as one of the favourites for the Euros.

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Harry Kane tipped to be top scorer at the Euros

With some of the world’s elite forwards raring to propel their countries to great things at the Euros, the Golden Boot race will be a fascinating one.

Harry Kane leads the list as the favourite among the bookies at $7, where the Englishman will be hoping to transfer his brilliant season at club level into his efforts with the national team.

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Finishing as the Premier League’s top scorer on 23 and with the most assists with 14, Kane was undoubtedly the finest marksman in the division. Proving he’s able to score a wide variety of goals from all over, the Tottenham Hotspur powerhouse will be a tough man to beat.

Excellent at dropping deep, running in behind and exploiting free space inside the area, his instinctive movement complements his clinical finishing masterfully.

Courtesy of Wiki Comms

Always confident to unleash shots when given even the slightest sniff of goal, he doesn’t hesitate to back himself, which enhances his threat.

Such a nightmare for defenders to deal with due to his size, strength and athleticism, Kane looks set to terrorise his opponents in the group stage, where he’ll look to hit the ground running against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic.

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Ahead of some other star attackers such as Kylian Mbappe, Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Memphis Depay, Robert Lewandowski, Ciro Immobile and Antoine Greizmann, Kane is justifiably at the top of the talented list.

As an integral component of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, Kane’s goals will be crucial in England’s quest for glory. And if they can go far in the tournament, expect Kane to be the man banging in the goals and leading the scoring charts at this summer’s Euros.

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Bucks surging in the NBA Playoffs

The Milwaukee Bucks showed precisely why they’re one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA by comprehensively defeating the Miami Heat 4-0 in the first round of the finals.

Sweeping the Heat to love, they flexed their muscles emphatically to brush aside their adversaries. Led by their Greek superstar, Giannis Antetokpunmpo, who was immense going forward and excellent on the defensive end keeping Jimmy Butler pretty quiet, the Bucks were too much to handle.

Playing with tremendous collective spirit and a real togetherness, this was crucial towards them dominating on both sides of the ball.

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It was also impressive how the Bucks offense produced against a solid Heat defence with their game plan that allowed Giannis to shine and get the shooters open. Getting some fine contributors alongside Giannis, the likes of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton and Bryn Forbes were vital in their win.

Courtesy of Flickr

When speaking after the series, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer cut a delighted figure, but urged his team to remain focused. “We have a long way to go. It’s the first round of the playoffs. And I think there’s gotta be a humility, a humbleness, an attitude or a mindset to get better. We’ve advanced in the first round. Whoever we play next, we got to have a similar focus, a similar edge, willingness to play with each other, play together, all the things that we just did. It means nothing if we don’t keep doing it going forward.”

Set to face the star studded Brooklyn Nets next, they’ll be filled with confidence they can come out victors in this duel too.

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Interestingly, the bookies have them rated third favourites at $5.50 behind the Nets ($2.75) and Utah Jazz ($4.50), which makes them a solid value bet for the punters.

Although they’ll face many challenges ahead in their quest to win the Championship, if they can keep their sparkling form up then there’s every chance they can turn their title dreams into a reality.

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The No. 1 Seed Suns Win 120-123 in OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns Game

On Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET, the Phoenix Suns took on the Oklahoma City Thunder and won 120-123. The game was held at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Because of their win, they still remain as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. 

OKC Thunder vs Phoenix SunsCourtesy of Phoenix Suns Arena

What to Know About the Phoenix Suns

Before their OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns win, the Suns became the No.1 team because of their victory over the Utah Jazz 121-100. Devin Booker led the said game with 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting. Also, small forward Mikal Bridges gave an additional 18 points while Chris Paul provided 12 points and 9 assists.

What to Know About the Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder received a massive blow against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday with 115-95, the worst loss in NBA history. Oklahoma City was in a difficult situation by the half. Their score being so many points away from their opponents at 82-46. Their shooting guard Charlie Brown gave a poor performance during his 26 minutes on the court with only 8 points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Thunder vs SunsCourtesy of Sportskeeda

OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns Highlights

Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points and 6 assists during the OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns game. He scored 16 points in the first half, which helped the Suns take a 64-57 lead. Craig also helped Phoenix shoot 58% before the break by adding 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

After three quarters, the Suns still led with 98-85, with Booker scoring 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the field. Moreover, Paul also hit a contested 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key, giving the Suns a 110-94 lead. 

The Thunder tried to turn the tides in their favour with Isaiah Roby’s free throw making it a 116-121 game. Maledon was also given a free throw when Booker was called for an offensive foul, making it 117-121. As the game progressed and within 6 seconds of the clock, the Suns’ Mikal Bridges put the game out of reach of Oklahoma by making two free throws. Thus, ending the OKC Thunder vs Phoenix Suns game 120-123.

On the 5th of May at 7:00 a.m. CT, the Phoenix Suns will be facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

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Muchova Beats Osaka in Mutua Madrid Open 2021

The world No.2 female tennis player, Naomi Osaka, is now out of the Mutua Madrid Open. Karolina Muchova beat Osaka in the second round, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. The 20th-ranked Muchova is making a name for herself as this is her third win against a top-10 opponent this year. 

According to Muchova, “It was a tough match today, but we had some preparation. I was ready to play with all I had today and to use all the weapons I could and [do] what I can.”

Naomi OsakaCourtesy of beIN Sports

Osaka Loses at the Mutua Madrid Open

In the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open 2021, Naomi Osaka wins over Misaki Doi with a 7-5, 6-2 score. As one of the top ten WTA players, a lot of people were excited about her matches. Many tennis punters flock to online sports gambling sites for matches with top ranking players. That’s why her loss comes as quite a shock for many.

During the match, Osaka had difficulty calibrating spin and placement. Although at 3-5, she fought off a set point and won the game, Muchova was able to win against one of the most forceful returners in tennis. With a backhand down-the-line, backhand drop shot and another backhand down-the-line, the Czech tennis player generated three set points. Muchova’s excellent performance continued until Osaka dropped her serve at 1-4 and then lost the last game at love.   

In an interview, Osaka stated, “I’m not sure how other players play, but I’m learning that on clay, I can’t afford to not swing through every ball, because that automatically takes me from offense to defense. And maybe if I start being able to move better, I can risk starting to play on defense, but as of right now, I think I should be the aggressor.”

Karolina MuchovaCourtesy of Tennis Now

Muchova on Her Win Against Osaka

It might have been surprising to many that Muchova was able to win the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open. But, this might have been not as shocking as it seems. Karolina Muchova has proved her skills by defeating some of the best tennis players for the past months. Earlier this year, she beat Ash Barty, the world No.1 female tennis player, in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. 

The 24-year-old player is known for her eclectic playing style. She certainly had Osaka in a trance during the early stages of their match. With Muchova serving in the first set at 2-1, 30-40, she showed absolute comfort on the clay.

According to Muchova, “in Czech since [I was a] kid I was actually practicing on clay, so I’m kind of used to it. Yeah, now we play more on hard court, but I always look forward to play on clay, and I like to slide and all these things. Yeah, it’s kind of natural for me.”

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Manchester United vs Roma 6-2 in Second-Half Fightback 

Manchester United is now on the verge of the Europa League final as they defeated Roma 6-2 in the first leg of the semifinal at Old Trafford. Although Roma had scored two away goals, United scored with five unanswered second-half goals and took control of the semifinal. 

Manchester United vs RomaCourtesy of Footballia

Key Highlights of the Game

At first, it seemed like United’s semifinal curse was set to continue when Pellegrini’s penalty and Dzeko’s sixth Old Trafford goal cancelled out Fernandes’ opener, which handed Roma two away goals before half time. But, as the game progressed, Manchester United turned the tides in their favour.

Roma was forced into three substitutions and grew wearier with each minute. They lost midfielder Jordan Veretout because of an injury just five minutes into the game. And within 25 minutes, their goalkeeper Pau Lopez was forced off with a suspected dislocated shoulder. This might have been because of his early parry with Pogba from the edge of the box. 

For United’s part, they wrestled back control of the game after Roma scored the two goals. During the second half, they were able to portray a devastating attack display. Cavani’s double, Fernandes’ second from the penalty spot, Pogba’s header and Greenwood’s sixth gave way to five unanswered goals.

Manchester United vs Roma Semi-final Second Leg

After putting Roma through a loss, United is now on the brink of another Europa League Final. They will travel to Rome for their Europa League semifinal second leg. 

The win wasn’t similar to when United won over Roma in 2007 with 7-1 in the Champions League.

According to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, “The job is not done, but it was a job well done. Roma have got quality, scored two goals with their two chances we gave them in the first half, but I was very pleased with the response. The second half was very good.

“We know we’ve got creative players; it’s about getting them up there in good positions. We took most of our chances, I am very pleased. The character showed, the players didn’t lose their heads.”

Manchester UnitedCourtesy of ESPN

“For five minutes at the end of the first half we didn’t look great, but we managed to get ourselves together. The two goals were down to very schoolboy errors, they should happen at this level, we said that at half-time and corrected it.”

Manchester United will face the victors of the other semifinal between Villarreal and Arsenal.

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Rafael Nadal on the hunt for another French Open crown

Rafael Nadal will head into the French Open as the favourite, as the Spanish star is looking to secure his 14th Roland Garros crown.

Having won the tournament last year, the world number three, who is an absolute master on the clay, is rated as the clear frontrunner by the bookies. Priced at 1.91 to claim the title, he’s well ahead of Novak Djokovic (4.50), Dominic Thiem (7), Stefanos Tsitsipas (8), Andrey Rublev (21) and Roger Federer (34).

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Fresh from winning the Barcelona Open, where he eventually ousted Tsitsipas in a gruelling three hour and 38 minute marathon, this will have been a good confidence boost. Upon considering he hasn’t been at his best in 2021, the win was definitely a timely one.

Courtesy of Wiki Nadal

His famous uncle, Toni Nadal, offered his insight when speaking after the win, saying: “It was not a great game, I think neither of them played well, although it was very exciting. For Rafel, I think it was something important. That he is able to beat the 5 in the world, and win without playing very well, with mistakes that he normally does not make, is something that can give him a lot of morale for the following tournaments.”

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With Djokovic set to be his fiercest rival, their past matches have usually been epic affairs. On clay, however, Nadal has only lost seven of their 25 encounters. But interestingly the Serb did beat him once at the French Open and four times in Masters finals.

When asked about Nadal, fellow Spanish tennis player, Pablo Carreno Busta, noted what a force the veteran still is. “Although he is not at his best level, because it has been very, very high and it is not easy to maintain or recover it, because he had not played since Australia, Rafael Nadal, especially on clay, is the best player there is right now and there has been in tennis history,” he said

“You must be very clear about the weapons and (play) a very round match to be able to hurt him and hope that he is not at his best level. He’s a favorite for all clay-court tournaments. He is always counted for the title.”

Even though Nadal’s 34, there’s no doubting what a class act he is and what a master he is on clay, which makes it completely understandable why he’s the man to beat at the French Open yet again.

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Football Index: Market Crash Caused Users to Lose £90 million

The football trading industry was in disarray as soccer player-trading platform Football Index’s market crashed considerably. Its users have collectively lost £90 million. The company held itself as a combination of fantasy sports and the stock market.

Football Index users could buy shares in soccer players. They were then offered dividends based on player performances and real-world values. It’s also reported that the company had over 500,000 registered users, out of which 30,000 were regular traders. This means that there’s an average individual loss of at least £3,000 each.

Football Index’s Market Crash

Football IndexCourtesy of The Guardian

The company was launched in 2015 and became a popular brand for English football. It heavily advertised itself on TV, radio and player’s jerseys. Moreover, because it mimicked a stock market, the value of shares would fluctuate depending on metrics such as the player’s on-pitch performances.

However, the market crashed after Football Index announced a dramatic cut to dividends. They would be slashing dividends by 80%. Their reason for it is to “ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform.” Many users then found that their shares have plummeted. Currently, they are unable to withdraw their funds, and their accounts have been frozen.

The Measures Taken By the Regulator

UKGCCourtesy of Top Online Bookmakers

Bet Index, Football Index’s parent company, had its license suspended by the UK Gambling Commission. After its suspension, many people are wondering why Football Index even got the license in the first place and why the UKGC was not able to intervene.

Some have also stated that the company was akin to a Ponzi scheme. Others suggested that it cut dividends deliberately to devalue the platform’s market and reduce its liabilities. But, no matter the reason, most people agreed that the UKGC could not handle the matter well.

Additionally, after the company’s suspension, EFL Championship teams Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers announced that they would end their sponsorship deals. Football Index previously sponsored their jerseys.

The UKGC’s Shortcomings

The market crash happened just when the government is conducting a regulatory review on gambling laws. The review promises to reshape the UK’s gambling landscape. Thus, UKGC is in the spotlight because many people believe them to be negligent in their responsibilities.

On its part, the UKGC stated, “People using gambling operators do so at their own risk. Although remote operators licensed by the Commission must keep customer funds in a separate account/s, there is no guarantee that this will ensure customers get all their money back if the company runs into financial difficulties.

“When the Gambling Commission licenses an operator, we look at suitability, including their financial circumstances. But we do not oversee their businesses on a day-to-day basis or monitor the financial health of operators directly in real-time. That would impose significant regulatory costs and could give a false sense of security to customers.”

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UFC 261: Masvidal vs. Usman set to excite

The UFC 261 match up between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal looks set to be a cracking fight when the two face off on April 24 in Jacksonville in front of a packed VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

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In the case of Masvidal, he’s made his intentions clear that he’s looking for revenge after losing the first bout between the pair at UFC 251 last year. Rewind to the first fight, and Masvidal was a late replacement for Gilbert Burns, which left him just six days to prepare before he embarked on an arduous journey to Abu Dhabi. Upon taking into account he had to lose 20 pounds to make weight compounded issues for him, meaning he wasn’t at his absolute best.

“[The weight cut] wasn’t fun. It was a lot of weight. I was 35 at the time. As you get older, the weight [cut] just sucks, you know? The last three pounds took longer than the first 17. Just trying to get those last three pounds out was a headache and a half. I don’t have to do that now for this fight. As I stand right now, I’m nine pounds away from the weight class, just ready to rock and roll.

“When I got to 18 pounds [off], I started like, ‘Wow, this hurts,’ but all I kept thinking is, ‘It’ll mean nothing if I go out there and knock this guy out, so I’m going to make the weight like a man,’ because I’ve never missed weight,” he said. “I signed that dotted line. Let’s compete. I’m going to make this weight. If not, then I shouldn’t have taken the fight. That would have been the coward’s way out. I made sure I made the weight and then gave it my best.”

Courtesy of Wiki Comms

Although Masvidal will certainly head into the fight in a much better position to challenge, the tough to beat Usman, who’s won 13 fights in a row, will be a truly formidable foe. In excellent shape and raring to go, the current welterweight champion is understandably the betting favourite, with him priced at 1.29 and Masvidal at 3.85.

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Boasting a UFC record of 18-1 and in the prime of his career, it would take a brave man to not back “The Nigerian Nightmare” to register his second victory over Masvidal after ousting him by unanimous decision in their first fight.

With fans returning to the stands to watch these two elite fighters going toe to toe, they should be in for a real treat, as Masvidal will be looking for an upset over the in-form champion Usman.

Consistent AS Monaco making waves in Ligue 1

In absolutely sensational form in Ligue 1 and in the quarter finals of the Coupe de France, AS Monaco have certainly been making waves this season.

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Currently sitting third in the league and having only lost once in their last 23 matches, their form has been nigh on flawless since December of last year. Having started the season inconsistently, one of the key catalysts behind their upturn in fortunes arose when coach Niko Kovac opted to switch to a 3-2-4-1 in possession.

Giving the team more defensive stability and allowing them to get the best out of their impressive forwards and attacking midfielders such as Wissam Ben Yedder, Kevin Volland, Sofiane Diop, Stevan Jovetic, Sofiane Diop and Aleksandr Golovin, it’s worked a treat.

The duo in central midfield have been nothing short of outstanding as well in this new system, as Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni have been formidable.

Courtesy of Flickr

The wingbacks have been another valuable element towards their success, with Caio Henrique and Ruben Aguilar in particular adding vital width and depth to attacks, which has stretched opposition backlines both horizontally and vertically.

Meanwhile, in terms of the defence, the likes of Guillermo Maripan, Benoit Badiashile, Axel Disasi, Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Lecomte in goal have steadily improved as the campaign’s gone on. Keeping seven clean sheets in their last eight games, they’re defending with assuredness, physicality and confidence.

Possessing plenty of depth across the pitch in the form of Eliot Matazo, Krepin Diatta, Pietro Pellegri, Chrislain Matsima, Gelson Martins and Fode Ballo-Toure, they’ve contributed impressively when given a chance.

Manager Kovac certainly deserves huge credit for instilling his philosophy so successfully and getting his players well and truly on board, with his presence integral towards their masterful campaign.

Priced at a decent 13 to win the Ligue 1 championship, they’re definitely in with a shout according to the bookies. In truth, however, finishing in the top three to earn Champions League qualification would be a sensational achievement for this young and exciting team.

Related: Benefits of Using a Betting Spreadsheet

Having beaten giants Paris Saint-Germain and unquestionably the in form team in France at present, Monaco are proving to be an irresistible force in 2021, as they’ve progressed amazingly this crusade to become unlikely title contenders.

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