Today’s Free Games..

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08-04 18:00
Turkey – Super Lig
Rizespor – Besiktas – x2

08-04 16:30
Finland – Veikkausliiga
HJK Helsinki – IFK Mariehamn – 1

08-04 19:00
Romania – Liga 1
Steaua Bucuresti – Sepsi – (Draw no bet) Steaua Bucuresti

08-04 15:00
Russia – Premier League
Orenburg – Akhmat – under 2.5

08-04 18:00
Denmark – Superligaen
Nordsjaelland – Broendby – (Both teams to score) yes

08-04 17:00
Czech Republic – 1. Liga
Sparta Prague – FC Fastav Zlin – 1

08-04 19:30
Belgium – Pro League
Club Brugge – Standard Liege – over 1.5

08-04 19:00
Netherlands – Eerste Divisie
Jong PSV – NEC Nijmegen – over 2.5


The next manager of Manchester United: Mauricio Pochettino The third in a series analyzing the bettor’s picks to manage Manchester United after José Mourinho.

Think back to a time when José Mourinho argued that his side had the better performance in an 0-3 drubbing at Old Trafford. Weirdly, it feels that midweek August 2018 match against Tottenham was a long time ago when the Theatre of Dreams hosted a Lucas Moura-induced nightmare.

That nightmare persisted when Mourinho — doing his best impression of Emperor Nero fiddling as Rome burned to the ground — emphatically applauded the Stretford End before claiming moral victories to the media.

Take it from me, a lifelong Jacksonville Jaguars fan, moral victories are definitely not actual victories.

It’s safe to say, during THAT second half, Manchester United supporters were upgrading the managerial dilemma from DEFCON 2 to DEFCON 1.

However, inevitably, Mourinho’s scorching hot seat cooled down considerably in recent weeks after stabilizing results against Newcastle United, at Chelsea and against Everton. Like a monster in Fallout 4, Mourinho not only survived the nuclear meltdown, but, now, his future has hellishly mutated with news that Anthony Martial would sign a new contract and the board may approve £100 million for the winter transfer window.

Anyone else fear we’re in the football equivalent of Stranger Things’ Upside Down?

Harkening back to our opening ponderance, we shan’t forget that it was occasional Diego Simeone-clone Mauricio Pochettinowho slayed United’s Portuguese Demogorgon. And as the man with 10-1 odds according to SkyBets, Pochettino is the next consideration of our series analyzing the managers with the best betting odds to take over at United.

The major thread surrounding Pochettino that did not creep up in our pieces analyzing Zinedine Zidane and Antonio Conte is a lack of silverware.

Sure, he doesn’t have the trophy cabinet of a Mourinho, a Zidane or a Conte, but Poch is a builder — a damn good one too.

The TL;DR of Pochettino’s career includes taking the reins of the relegation-destined Espanyol in January 2010 — with his first match at the helm of a first division side against Barcelona — and saving his team from relegation, leading Southampton to an eighth place finish in his first full year with the Saints and, most recently, transforming Tottenham from an occasional top four pretender into a dominant Premier League contender and potential European power.

Pochettino installed a culture at Tottenham that required players to buy-in through hard work and development. Those players unwilling to buy-in were kicked to the curb, and Pochettino was left with a core of young talent that grew into some of the most important players at both Tottenham and their national teams.

His commitment to building a foundation that supported long term success has caught the attention of football directors and pundits across the continent. It goes without question that such a commitment to development would be lauded by Manchester United’s own Class of ‘92 alumnus Gary Neville.

What [Pochettino]’s had to do, in these last 12 to 18 months, is knock the house down and try and rebuild it again,” Neville said of Pochettino’s progress at Tottenham in 2015.

“He’s not just transforming a squad, he’s transforming a culture — a culture of being a little bit flimsy.

“Mauricio Pochettino teams work damn hard,” Neville continued.

Anyone seeing parallels in Neville’s comments if Pochettino joins United?

Since taking over Tottenham in May 2014, Spurs finished top five every year including two third-place finishes and a second place finish. Outside of England, Tottenham finished as the Europa League Runner Ups in the 2014-15 season and appeared in the Champions League each of the last three seasons. Pochettino achieved this success while spending only a net £29 million over that stretch.

Spurs’ success in the standings and on the pitch stem from a combination of rigorous conditioning and Pochettino’s fluid, pressing system of play. Many regulars in the starting XI are expected to be able to play several positions on the pitch. As outlined by COPA90, Pochettino’s men can press when the situation requires it, and they seamlessly fill in attacking or defending roles to regain possession.

The system yielded 69, 86 and 74 goals in the last three seasons, respectively, and Spurs remained sound defensively — conceding no more than 36 goals in any of those seasons.

Comparatively, United matched Tottenham’s defensive output in those seasons but only scored 49, 54 and 68 goals respectively. We’ve seen in flashes this season that United can score goals when it throws caution to the wind, therefore, an infusion of Pochettino’s more attacking-minded philosophy could solve the woes currently exhibited by United’s current crop of talented, expensive and underachieving attackers.

The arrival of Pochettino could also mean an exodus of Tottenham players to Northern England. Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy’s budget at Spurs is already strangled by the continued delays to the new White Hart Lane’s opening, and, with Pochettino leaving London, Levy may need to conduct a fire sale to recoup money to aid the next Tottenham managerial transition.

It is tantalizing to imagine the likes of a Christian Eriksen, a Davinson Sánchez, a Dele Alli, or a Harry Kane donning red kits alongside Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, David de Gea, etc.

Pochettino’s potential success with United will be measured by first team trophies and youth development. Even the most cynical fringes of United’s supporting groups will find its savior in Pochettino if he can start to replicate the systems that produced the legendary Class of ‘92.

Kane and Danny Rose are two of the high profile Tottenham Academy graduates that have thrived under Pochettino’s tutelage while Harry Winks and Kyle Walker-Peters are two of the newest academy graduates to start making an impact with the first team. Pochettino, again, proved his commitment to the academy this October when he named 18 year old Oliver Skipp to the bench in Tottenham’s Champions League match against Barcelona.

If the yet to be named director of football works in concert with Pochettino to emphasize producing talent that eventually graduates to the first team, United could regain its foothold as the premier English side and one of the best clubs in the whole world.

Ultimately, Pochettino’s ceiling as the manager of Manchester United should be limitless. He’s already proven he can build and sustain successful teams under tight budgetary restrictions, and with United’s financial and scouting resources Pochettino has all the opportunity in the world to maximize United’s potential.

Therefore, the Argentine should be viewed as one of the frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford, and he’ll be celebrated for years to come if he accepts Ed Woodward’s offer.

City wait on KDB news Friday, November 2, 2018

Manchester City are sweating over the fitness of Kevin de Bruyne after the Belgian international was forced off during their Carabao Cup victory over Fulham. The 2-0 win for City, who are 4/9 with bet365 to win the Premier League this season, was marred by De Bruyne leaving the field with three minutes to go due to injury.De Bruyne was making just his second start of the campaign after suffering a ligament injury to his right knee back in August and now there are concerns he could be set for another spell on the sidelines.”He is being checked by the doctors,” said manager Pep Guardiola. “We don’t know if it’s nothing or if it’s something serious.”

The End of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid

The last decade of European soccer has been a battle between two conflicting truths: The game is random, and either Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich always win.

Soccer’s unpredictability has been studied by everyone from chemists to experts in risk to former goalkeepers. German theoretical chemist Andreas Heuer analyzed 20 years worth of German Bundesliga games and discovered that luck—not skill or athleticism—was the most important factor in whether a team won a given game. David Spiegelhalter, the Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, combed through years of historical data from European soccer games and developed the 48/26/26 law; the home team wins 48 percent of the time, the away team wins 26 percent of the time, and they draw in the remaining 26 percent. And after looking at a year’s worth of data, former keeper Chris Anderson and David Sally, coauthors of The Numbers Game, discovered that the betting-market favorites in soccer win just over 50 percent of the time. In baseball, it’s closer to 60 percent, and in football and basketball, the favorites win nearly two-thirds of the time

Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Barcelona aren’t great basketball teams; they’re even better. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the three clubs have combined to win 75 percent of their league games, while drawing 15 percent of the time, and losing just 10 percent of their matches. Combined, they’ve won seven of eight Champions League titles and 13 of 16 Bundesliga and La Liga championships. Bayern Munich has systematically dominated matches like few teams ever have. In the early part of the decade, Barcelona built the best passing team the world has ever seen, and then took it to another level by also employing the greatest individual player of this century. And Real Madrid stacked enough superstars on top of each other to create enough decisive momentswhen it mattered most.

Watching soccer over this past decade has, in a way, required fans to fundamentally alter their perception of the sport. Randomness has governed the game since its rules were first codified more than a century ago. (See: FC Porto winning the Champions League in 2004 or Leicester City’s 2015-16 Premier League title.) And yet these three clubs have found a way to control the uncontrollable—at least, until this season.

Over the past 10 combined league games, Munich, Madrid, and Barcelona have been winless. The odds of that happening, based on the pre-match betting lines? One in 1,212,367. Bayern have lost two Bundesliga games in a row for the first time since May 2015, and they’ve already lost as many games as they did in the entirety of the 2015-16 or 2016-17 seasons. Madrid have lost two of their last three and have not scored a goal in more than 400 minutes in all competitions. And Barcelona’s four-game winless streak is their longest run without a victory since 2015-16. The Catalan club sits second in La Liga, while Madrid are in fourth. Munich, meanwhile, are all the way down in sixth in the Bundesliga.

The game has changed, and the shift didn’t just start last month.

The consultancy 21st Club has developed the World Super League rating system, which aims to quantify the quality of a given team based on its recent underlying performances. Around 2011, Bayern joined Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the ratings, and the three clubs almost exclusively maintained that trio of spots right up until the start of last season. Since then, it’s been a free for all:

I think the decline has been going on for about two seasons, which people have generally accepted,” Omar Chaudhuri, head of football intelligence at 21st Club, told me over email. “The decline is probably made more ‘real’ by the fact that Juve, PSG, and Man City have improved and closed the gap. Sometimes you can get worse and no one notices (e.g. Celtic won 106 points in 2016-17, then 82 points in 2017-18, but won trebles in both so no one really commented on it). But the decline is sufficient now that the league table, not just the results, are reflecting the decline.”

The two biggest blows to the Bayern-Barça-Madrid stranglehold atop European soccer have been the Premier League’s exploding television contract and the brief trend of oil-and-or-gas-rich Gulf states purchasing their own clubs. Qatar essentially funds Paris Saint-Germain’s operations, while the Abu Dhabi royal family owns Manchester City. Meanwhile, the Premier League’s broadcasting deal is worth more than double that of any other league, and, on the back of that, the league’s total revenue is nearly double that of all its closest competitors.

“The big challenge for all clubs outside England is how to cope with the EPL TV deal,” Stefan Szymanski, coauthor of Soccernomics with Simon Kuper, told me over email. “Eventually, generating twice as much money as anyone else should be expected to lead to perpetual dominance. For me the surprise is that it hasn’t happened already.”

In an effort to gain back some ground, La Liga has changed the way it distributes broadcasting revenue. For the 2014-15 season, Barcelona and Real Madrid earned €140 million in broadcasting revenue, while Almería, the worst team in the league, earned €18 million. Under the new deal, which distributes the TV money more equitably, the ratio in revenue from top to bottom is now closer to 4-to-1. The overall deal has skyrocketed: from €851 million in 2014-15 to €1.247 billion in 2016-17. But Real and Barcelona have barely seen their broadcasting revenues increase.

In Germany, Bayern Munich have the highest commercial revenue of any club in the world, but their overall revenue decreased slightly last year. The Bundesliga is expected to sign a new broadcasting deal that may surpass the current La Liga deal, but clubs in Germany all operate under the “50+1” rule, under which fans maintain majority ownership of each club. It’s an honorable, socially democratic bulwark against the rampant global capitalism of the beautiful game, but it also prevents a super-wealthy owner from coming in and infusing a club with cash. As such, Bayern’s record transfer-spend on a single player is just £37.35 million. That’s the 79th most expensive transfer of all time.

“Simon [Kuper] and I have said that we think Barça and Real might struggle more now that they are committed to sharing TV revenues,” Szymanski said. “Bayern is clearly worried about financial constraints limiting the growth of the Bundesliga. These days you seem to need either a wealthy owner prepared to commit cash or the EPL TV deal.”

It’s not all about money, though. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Barcelona are all at the tail end—or the actual end—of a superstar-powered cycle. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best players of this generation, and their peaks coincided with the dominance of their clubs. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich built the spine of their team using the Germany side that won the 2014 World Cup—and then they supplemented it with two of the players, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, who have came the closest to occasionally matching the production of Messi and Ronaldo. At 31, Messi is still the most dominant player in the world, but his main supplier Andrés Iniesta is gone, while other stalwarts like Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, and Luis Suárez have begun to decline. Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus, he hasn’t been replaced, and most of the Madrid squad remains in place—they’re just a year older. And perhaps Germany’s World Cup failure presaged an oncoming decline for the country’s premier club team. Plus, Ribery is 35 and Robben is 34.

Bayern have certainly aged,” Chaudhuri said. “Their starting XI average age was 26.3 from 2009-2016, but in the last 3 seasons it’s been 28, 27.4, and 28. Madrid have their oldest starting XIs since 2004-05, Barça are about 1.5 years older than what they were between 2008 and 2010. So you’d expect a natural decline from these figures.”

Each club has also brought in a new manager to be the steward of the complicated transition of their aging squads—and none of them have any experience at the highest level. Before joining Bayern, Niko Kovac brought Eintracht Frankfurt up from a relegation fight and into the European places. Ernesto Valverde had a journeyman career before spending four seasons with Athletic Bilbao, as the team bounced between fourth and seventh place. And for Real Madrid and Julen Lopetegui—well, you know him as the guy who was fired by Spain on the eve of this past summer’s World Cup. None of those three coaches would grade out as a consensus top-10 manager in the world. Some of that is just timing—most of the top coaches are currently employed, and there’s not much you can do about that—but it’s also likely connected to the increased spending power in England and at PSG.

Despite the recent bad run and the rise of competitors elsewhere in Europe, Bayern will still probably win the Bundesliga, and the same goes for one of Real or Barça in Spain. FiveThirtyEight puts Munich as 70 percent favorites in Germany, while the combined title odds of the Spanish giants comes out to 84 percent. They’re still the best teams in their leagues—and among the best in Europe—they’re just no longer at a point when a loss or a trophy-less run should feel like a shock to the natural order of things. The league tables aren’t lying; the underlying numbers for all three clubs have dropped off, too.

Of course, those lines won’t continue trending down, leading the super clubs into mid-table mediocrity and eventually out of the top flight. All three teams will likely level out right around where they are now, or somewhere a little higher, and then a new cycle will begin. Before the dominance of Bayern, Barça, and Madrid, English clubs were the ones taking turns winning the Champions League. And remember when the red-and-black stripes of AC Milan used to be a semifinal fixture?

As for what the next era will be, it’s still unclear. PSG’s record-realtering moves for Neymar and Kylian Mbappé two summers ago seemed to destroy any established ideas about who buys players from whom and for how much. It also gave an upstart club two of the presumptive Next Best Players in the World. A little more than a year after they both arrived in Paris, plenty of the big pieces pieces are still falling into place.

“Market values are a little crazy,” said Rob Wilson, an expert in football finance at Sheffield Hallam University in England. “These three clubs have consequently been less interested in mega deals—don’t write them off though.”

For now, at least, randomness will start winning again

Serena Williams talks motherhood, insecurities at conference  Associated PressOct 12, 2018, 6:24 PM PHILADELPHIA (AP)

Serena Williams has opened up about parenting, motherhood and her own insecurities during a women’s conference in Philadelphia. The tennis star was one of a number of speakers Friday at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. She told the group of about 10,000 attendees: “I always have these insecurities that I’m not good enough as a mom. We all go through these different emotions that we all don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I think we should.”

She also spoke about the disparity in health outcomes between black and white mothers and her status as an inspiration for working moms. She wrapped up by saying she wants her 1-year-old daughter to grow up in a world where women support other women. She says “the success of another woman should be the inspiration to the next.”

How Shivya Nath Turned Her Travel Blog into a Book

Five years after becoming a digital nomad, travel blogger Shivya Nath just hit another major milestone: last month her book, The Shooting Star (named after her popular blog), was published by Penguin India. We recently caught up with Shivya to chat about her blog-to-book journey, the always-evolving travel-blog scene, and her other recent adventures.

Congratulations on your book! How did The Shooting Star evolve from a blog to its new, physical format?

Thank you; I’m so excited that The Shooting Star is out as a book in the universe now. It was definitely a serendipitous development. Over seven years ago, when I first started travel blogging, I had no idea of the things it was going to lead to — a life of long-term travel, a sustainable source of income, a chance to work with some great people and brands, and now, a book!

In retrospect, my blog absolutely paved the way for a book. As the focal point of my travels, the blog has had — and will continue to have — a life of its own. But along the way, it has also helped me grow as a traveler, work on my writing skills, and develop the discipline that is essential to pen a book. Though titled the same, the book is a deeper, more personal, more introspective version of the blog — with many untold travel stories.

I also have to say — the blog definitely helped me as a portfolio when I approached my dream publisher as a first-time author.

Shivya’s Business site features a custom domain, extra storage space for media, and access to hundreds of WordPress themes and plugins. Ready to take your site to the next level? Check out our plans.

Leveraging one’s blog into a book from a major publisher is the dream of many a blogger. Are there any practical things one might do to help their chances?

Absolutely. Here are a couple of things that I believe could help any aspiring author.

Use the blog to find your voice. Experiment with themes that interest you, and actively seek feedback from your readers. Many great writers attribute their way with words to writing every day, and a blog is a great platform to do that.

Build a community that cares. Many authors believe that writing a book is only 50 percent of the work. The other 50 is getting enough people to care about what you’ve written and choose to buy it. I’m realizing how true this is — and feel immensely grateful to many of my loyal blog readers who bought the book on pre-order, even before it was released!

You’ve been a full-time nomadic travel writer for years now; what are the items you never travel without?

My MacBook Pro and iPhone keep me functional at all times.

I’ve been vegan for over three years now, and as a nomadic travel writer who chooses not to consume meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, or any other animal products, I now swear by my portable smoothie maker. It charges by USB, and ensures I can have my cacao-banana or fruit smoothies wherever in the world I am! Being a plant-based eater in a meat-loving part of the world can be lonely sometimes, but the smoothie maker is a reminder as to why I refuse to participate in animal cruelty and how far I’m willing to go to make this lifestyle work.

From Barcelona to Machu Picchu, there’s been a lot of concern in recent years about how travelers are gradually destroying the places they visit (and obsessively Instagram). Is that something that’s on your mind when you travel?

It’s really sad the way overtourism is creating a rift between travelers and locals as well as contributing to environmental degradation, especially through excessive disposal of single-use plastic. I prefer to travel to places that are under the radar, and write about how we can make more responsible travel choices that are inclusive of local communities and conscious of the environment. In an attempt to bust some Instagram-created myths around the perfection of travel, I wrote about why long-term travel is more like real life and less like Instagram.

In the last couple of years, I’ve also started working on passion projects: In the Trans-Himalayan desert of Spiti, in India, we started a campaign against plastic bottled water, and built a life-size art installation entirely with discarded plastic bottles to help tourists pledge against using them in this ecologically-sensitive region. We’ve collaborated with LifeStraw to create public refill stations across Spiti, and partnered with local hotels and restaurants to discourage the sale of plastic bottled water. Imagine the irony of drinking “Himalayan water” packaged in plastic bottles in the plains in a glacial region with real Himalayan water!

In another part of the Himalaya, I worked with a local organization to help create India’s first Instagram channel run entirely by a rural Himalayan community of storytellers. @voicesofMunsiari shows tourism, life, and the connection of the locals to their ecology through simple, moving photographs and stories.

That sounds like an extraordinary experience. What are other memorable places you’ve visited recently?

That’s always a tough one to answer! The two places that come to mind are Cuba and Japan.

In Cuba, I spent time on a remote island community, volunteering and learning from a coral-reef restoration project by IOI Adventures. Seeing the incredibly beautiful corals and marine life littered with single-use plastic put so much in perspective. In addition to refusing plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic toothbrushes, I also decided to shift to zero-waste bars for shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner. Every bit counts, and I’ve written about some simple alternatives to single-use plastic.

My time in Japan is hard to summarize in a few words, so let me share this visual post about why traveling in Japan is like nowhere else in the world.

One last question: when we last chatted a couple of years ago, you said that “the more I travel, the more I meet people who are choosing less steady, more satisfying paths in life.” Is that still the case?

Yes! In fact, I’ve been meeting more people — both online and offline — who are choosing less traditional, more fulfilling trajectories. Maybe it’s a matter of consciously surrounding myself with such people, though.

Professionally, there are more opportunities today than ever before, and the internet (blogs, social media) is a powerful medium to leverage them. If you’re passionate about writing, travel, music, art, or anything else, there’s a space for you online to develop those skills further and to monetize them. It involves a certain degree of risk, yes. But no one can predict what amazing things it could lead to.

Every blogger or site owner has a dream — whether it’s to find a community, sell a product, or publish a book. What’s yours? Tell us in the comments.


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