The Top 5 Football Podcasts

men in blazers

The start of the Premier League is upon us once again, with teams spending more than the biggest lottery jackpot winners on players whose names most of us can’t even pronounce, said players releasing on-brand messages on their Instagram accounts, and clubs releasing third strips that look like they were designed in a dimly lit basement. In order to make sense of the madness, it’s nice to have an aural accompaniment to cut away all the nonsense and tell it like it really is.

That’s where a really good podcast comes in, and we are going to point you in the direction of five of the best.

The Football Ramble:

No podcast reproduces the sound of mates bantering about football in their local pub more accurately than the long-running Football Ramble podcast. There is a fair deal of rambling in between the football chat, which is not for everybody, but the four hosts (Pete, Luke, Jim and Marcus) have an easy charm and a clear off-pod friendship that carries it off.

Second Captains Football:

This Irish pod has grown a cult following in the UK, thanks to its intelligent and deftly humorous approach to football chat. Presenters Eoin McDevitt, Ken Early and Ciaran Murphy have graduated to national TV and radio appearances in Ireland, but the podcast remains their strongest achievement to date.

Expect a quirky approach, with no guff and no time for the pretensions and hype which football can sometimes attract.

Football Weekly:

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One of the elder statesmen of the podding world, Football Weekly from the Guardian tops many people’s lists of the best soccer podcast out there. Host James Richardson brings his cultured urbanity to proceedings, with long-serving wingman Barry Glendenning providing light relief. With the ability to call upon a pool of Guardian football journos, Football Weekly easily mixes japery with serious football chat.

The Game:

Another old-timer, The Game is brought to you by a rival UK paper in the form of The Times of London. Gabriele Marcotti is the host, offering a drily assertive counter-weight to some of the more earnest contributors. As with Football Weekly, there is a strong roster of experienced sports journalists to call upon, although The Game tends to take a generally more serious approach than its counterpart at The Guardian.

The Big Interview with Graham Hunter: This is a relatively new podcast compared to some of the others on our list, although host Graham Hunter is a long-established and respected football journalist. This show is a long-form interview, often over two parts, giving Hunter the chance to drill down into the history of his guests. Normally the podcast features retired pros so this is not the place to come for info on the current season, but the conversations often throw up interesting revelations.

That’s our five-a-side of top footy podcasts, but if you want to go for the full eleven then here are six more that finished just outside our list:

Honourable Mentions:

Men in Blazers: Wildly popular US-facing soccer podcast.

The Football Show on Off The Ball: Another Irish podcast with a relaxed and humorous style. The 2 Robbies: former players Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle deliver the punditry.

The Magic Sponge: Every-bloke ex-pro Jimmy Bullard plus two comedian pals chat footy.

The Spanish Football Podcast: Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides analyse La Liga.

A Team of John O’Sheas: Answering the football questions that no-one is asking!

The potential surprise packages of the 2017/18 Premier League

There are just a matter of days until the 2017/18 English Premier League (EPL) campaign gets underway and already the anticipation is palpable. Hundreds of millions have been spent by the title contenders in pre-season, with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola already spending over £200m in a bid to bring the trophy back to the Etihad.

However, it didn’t take hundreds of millions for Leicester City to become champions back in 2015/16. Some may call it a fluke, others may say it was simply perfect timing while their rivals had an ‘off’ season. Regardless, it’s difficult to argue that the EPL hasn’t become tougher in recent times.

The parachute money that is filtering down from the top flight into the Championship is making the English second tier stronger in many ways and this is ensuring that the promoted sides that come into the EPL are better prepared than before to compete at the highest level.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three sides that could potentially spring a surprise on the rest of division and gatecrash the top half of the EPL table in 2017/18:

Brighton & Hove Albion

The Seagulls are returning to England’s top flight for the first time since 1983. Albion have been knocking on the door of the EPL for many seasons and following a string of failed Championship playoff campaigns, boss Chris Hughton eventually took them up last term, finishing second to Newcastle.

The club’s Falmer Stadium is fit for EPL football and Hughton has been quietly adding to his squad over the summer, without making wholesale changes to those who earnt the club promotion. Holding on to enigmatic wide man Anthony Knockaert will be key, while it promises to be interesting to see how on-loan Chelsea front man Izzy Brown fares following a successful loan spell in the Championship last term with playoff winners Huddersfield. Albion are attracting interest in the Premier League odds markets to stay up and are already as big as 5/1 to finish last.

AFC Bournemouth

While it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise to see the Cherries in the top half again given their ninth-place finish in 2016/17, Bournemouth are doing what they can to become firmly established in the EPL. Young boss Eddie Howe has been given the wherewithal to splash the cash and reinforce his squad for 2017/18, including a £20m purchase of defender Nathan Ake following a good loan spell last term. Experienced top-flight goal-getter, Jermain Defoe returns on a free transfer for a second spell with the club, adding further firepower to complement Josh King who smashed home 16 league goals last season.

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Jermain Defoe” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by OliverN5

Combine that with the attacking flair and directness of wingers Ryan Fraser and Jordon Ibe, and the Cherries are likely to be well amongst the goals again this season. A top-half finish is certainly not beyond them, while the ambitious Howe may even consider European qualification as a goal, either through domestic cup success or through finishing in the top six.

Crystal Palace

It’s been all change at Selhurst Park this summer, following the departure of Sam Allardyce at the end of 2016/17. The Eagles only secured top-flight status in their final home league game of the campaign, routing relegated Hull City 4-0 at Selhurst Park. Survival wasn’t deemed a success in south-east London, however, and with Allardyce seemingly keen to spend some time out of the EPL spotlight, Palace moved to appoint their first ever foreign manager, Frank de Boer, who signed a three-year contract with the club.

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Ergün Penbe, Frank de Boer, Abdullah Er…” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by l3o_

The former Ajax and Inter Milan head coach has already been relatively busy in the transfer market. His Dutch connections have seen him return to his homeland to capture promising defender Jairo Riedewald from Ajax, while Chelsea’s versatile youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek has signed a season-long loan deal at Selhurst Park.

There is a clear emphasis on youth and player development this term and with a number of players boasting the power, pace and strength that’s now required to prevail in the EPL, it would be no surprise to see de Boer transform Palace into top-half contenders in 2017/18. Much may rest on what de Boer can get out of Belgian centre forward, Christian Benteke, who is a 50/1 outshot for the EPL 2017/18 golden boot.

A brief history of football betting

barca fan

As this BBC report shows, football gambling is a huge and ever-growing business in the UK. Although the Premier League attracts the most money, every league throughout the country, from the Championship down to the Conference, has fans wagering on it. There just seems to be something about football that makes us Brits want to have a flutter! 

Football and gambling – a history

 

Football has always enjoyed a close relationship with the gambling industry, from the modern day to times gone past. Back when gambling was legalised in the 1960s, the football pools were a very popular way to have a go at winning some money. Who can forget Viv Nicholson, the factory worker from Castleford, scooping a jackpot worth close to £5 million in today’s money in 1961? Or the way famous players from the past, such as Rodney Marsh, would nip out at half-time to put a bet on? Many fans saw things like this happening and a link between the two industries was formed.

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Since then, the popularity of bookmaker’s shops and then the more recent development of online bookmakers has seen the industry grow even bigger and more successful. Not surprisingly, this relationship has helped both industries grow and has been mutually beneficial. Football seems to have taken a certain amount of glamour and interest from gambling, while the betting industry has used football to help draw in more customers. 

What does the future hold?

 

The future looks very bright for football and football betting, both separately and together. The close relationship they enjoy will only be made stronger by teams such as Watford and West Ham being sponsored by betting companies. Alongside this, the appeal and size of the Premier League brand will enable betting companies to develop new football betting markets and reach more potential customers than ever.

It is perhaps the digital side of football betting that holds the best future growth appeal though. There is a wide variety of slot games that people can have a go on now. As well as the possibility of picking up a casino bonus UK, these casino sites and games give people a fun way to experience both football and football betting.

Will it continue to grow?

 

The sports match betting industry is estimated to be worth around £430 billion currently, of which football makes up about 70%. With these figures in mind and its history, it would seem that football betting will be around for many more years to come. In a similar way, the Premier League continues to grow year on year, and the close bond between both can only help that happen further.

English people have always liked to have a little wager on their favourite team or the football pools, and this is not about to change anytime soon it seems. Indeed, the current popularity of the English football leagues and the advance of online betting technology and games only suggests that it will grow more than ever.

Potential Upsets at the Confederations Cup

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Every now and then, whether betting on accumulators or singles, punters take a worthy risk by including high-risk high-reward odds on underdog teams. Believe it or not, it’s hard to resist the temptation of turning small change into thousands of dollars in just over 90 minutes. A careful analysis of the potential ‘small teams’ causing major upsets against the so-called ‘big teams’ can be very rewarding. Looking ahead to the forthcoming Confederations Cup, there is a good mixture of heavy weights and underdogs, making it an opportune moment for punters to capitalise and make huge profits of bookmakers. The Confederations Cup offers that opportunity to turn those predictions into cash. Don’t be put off by the overwhelming odds against underdogs at all times, take risks and you could be a big winner at the end of the day, when things take the wrong turn, always know that you can take off the sting of losing with promotions.

Opening Match

The first game of the Confederations Cup pits the host nation, Russia against New Zealand who come into this match as clear underdogs according to many bookies. However, the New Zealand team comprises of many seasoned players who ply their trade in competitive leagues like the Barclays Premier League, the championship and the Bundesliga. The New Zealanders are captained by Leeds United forward Chris Wood, who won the Golden Boot in the English Championship. New Zealand is a very strong and physical team, which afforded too much respect will cause Russia problems and a potential upset.

 The Cameroon versus Chile game is another match in which punters can be rewarded for bravery in their wagers.

Bookies, including Betway boast 8/13 odds to Chile and 19/4 have their outright favourite in Chile. Cameroon features in this tournament, having lifted the Africa Cup of Nations in which they started out as outside potential winners. They defeated continental heavyweights, Ghana and Egypt, on their way against all odds, thus a repeat of the same eventuality cannot be discarded. The Cameroonians are a young team with top players all over major European leagues, and Chile have to be at their best to avoid an embarrassing defeat. On the other hand, a Cameroon upset over Chile is probable if recent results are anything to go by. Chile has had a rather mixed set of results in preparation for the tournament, including a dull one-all draw with Russia and a 3-2 defeat to lightweight Romania.

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Mexico

Perhaps a strong team spirit can conquer. If Mexico can prove this theory, then they have a real chance against a star-studded Portugal. Mexico is enjoying a good spell at the moment, having won 9 games, drawn 3 and lost once in the last 13 games they have played. Along the way, Mexico has played some breathtaking football and new players who have made their way into the team seem to have blended easily with the experienced lot. Bookmakers are tipping Portugal to edge out Mexico with William Hill giving Portugal 21/20 odds for a win and Mexico 13/5 for a win. Punters have an added advantage when betting with William Hill of utilising the Cash-out promotion where they can minimise their losses before the game ends, by taking a reduced amount of cash in return for not waiting until the end of the game.

Furthermore, bookies tipping Portugal to win over Mexico are also tipping Portugal to win the group. As Portugal and Mexico are both in the same group with Russia and New Zealand, the onus to take top spot seems most likely to be rested on Portugal. However, Mexico has a real chance of topping the group if their strong mentality can defeat the quality of the Portuguese. Russia on the other hand, has an outside chance of winning the group if they can utilise home support. There are markets in which punters can select Mexico and Russia as the top group, thus with the above in mind, there is a real possibility to turn predictions into profits.

 

Championship Sides in with EFL Cup Shot?

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In fifty-eight editions of the competition to date, a lower league side has in fact only prevailed four times. The 2012 final saw Cardiff come memorably close to glory, but failed to become the fifth side to upset the odds, as the Dragons lost a penalty shootout to nine-time winners Liverpool. It was a turn of events made more painful by the fact that Cardiff had also drawn first blood in regular time and dominated the first half, before Liverpool’s superior stamina began to turn the tide.

Given the low prize money on offer, this is a competition now rarely taken seriously by Premier League teams that have existing European commitments – that is until the final. Though Football League representation is relatively rare at Wembley, shock eliminations are still commonplace in the EFL Cup, with a third-tier Bradford City reaching the final at the expense of Arsenal just four years ago. Now a new season approaches, and the bookmakers have spoken out, with three Championship clubs, in particular, getting surprisingly short odds to spring an EFL Cup shock. Are these sides really worthy of Wembley Way?

Then a League Two side, Bradford City finished as EFL Cup runners up in 2013. This season, in one case, the Bantams are priced at 125/1 just to reach the final.
Middlesbrough – 80/1
As very narrow favourites to win the Football League Championship, and thus reclaim a place in the Premier League, Middlesbrough are also considered the most likely Championship club to win the EFL Cup.
Priced at around 40/1 in English Football League Cup betting stakes just to reach the final, Boro will likely continue to struggle for goals unless the ‘parachute payments’ available to relegated clubs are used shrewdly. Key striker Alvaro Negredo is also bound to depart within a matter of weeks, with West Bromwich by far the likeliest destination.
VERDICT: The winners of the 2004 final will be focused entirely on regaining promotion to the Premier League. No chance of a Wembley appearance in this competition.
Sheffield Wednesday – 100/1
A solitary strike from Nigel Pearson gave Sheffield Wednesday an EFL Cup final victory over Manchester United in 1991 – the club’s last piece of major silverware. The South Yorkshire club remain the last lower league side to have lifted English Football’s most underrated trophy. The Owls also demolished a not-severely weakened Arsenal side 3-0 in the fourth round two years ago.
As low as 50/1 with one bookmaker to win the League Cup, there is clearly a lot of optimism surrounding Carlos Carvalhal’s side, with attacking duo Steven Fletcher and Fernando Forestieri plundering 23 goals between them in 2016/17.
VERDICT: Sheffield Wednesday certainly have the resources to prevail against a weakened Premier League side when on form. However, the killer instinct that was lacking in the playoffs, and the playoff final of 2016, is an issue that will remain unless Carvalhal can pull off a major transfer coup in the summer.

Sheffield Wednesday demolished Arsenal on 27 October 2015 in the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
Birmingham City – 125/1
Given how near to disaster Birmingham came last season, this is a surprisingly short price, implying that the situation at St Andrew’s may improve beyond current expectations. Despite the optimism surrounding the side Redknapp could build, the Blues will need at least one season to rebuild. The playoffs are, therefore, likely to be out of reach for Harry Redknapp’s side.
However, there are at least six teams in worse shape than Birmingham ahead of 2017/18, meaning another relegation struggle is very unlikely. As such, free from much distraction in the league, the Blues will be striving to repeat their remarkable cup triumph of 2011. With the possibility of several useful additions, teams will underestimate Birmingham at their peril next season.
VERDICT: It is obviously a long shot, but if anyone can use his vast managerial experience, and unique character, to get a lower league side to Wembley, it’s Redknapp.

FIFA Confederations Cup: Top young players to watch

confed-cup

On June 17th, host nation Russia and New Zealand will kick off the FIFA Confederations Cup, a competition which sees each of the winners from the six regional tournaments, as well as the World Cup winners and hosts, compete against each other.

This year, there is a wealth of young talent on show for almost every single nation involved: Germany, in particular, is well represented by players 21-years-old or younger. Here, we’ll be looking into the top young players who you should be keeping an eye out for in the upcoming tournament.

3. Hirving Lozano

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Corea Sul x México – Futebol masculino – Olimpiade Rio 2016‘ by Agência Brasília (CC BY 2.0)

Last summer, Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano looked set on a big move away from Liga MX after garnering praise from all over the football community. Helping his team – CF Pachuca – to the Liga MX Clausura title and being named to the team of the competition in 2016, Chucky took another step forward this season.

This season, Lozano was one away from matching his total goal contributions, i.e. goals and assists, from 47 games last season in just 30 contests of 2016/17. But, disaster struck when the young Mexican suffered a gruesome injury. He’s now agreed to join Celta Vigo after he plays in the Confederations Cup, where he’ll certainly light up the tournament with his supreme ball control, blistering speed, and desire to get into the box to score.

2. Andre Silva

via GIPHY

Another FC Porto product much-sought-after in this summer’s transfer window, Andre Silva looks to play a big role for Euro 2016 champions Portugal in the Confederations Cup. The 21-year-old hailing from Baguim do Monte has already claimed six goals and three assists for his nation, despite playing only seven games.

Featuring as Porto’s striker this season, Andre Silva notched 21 goals and eight assists in all competitions, helping his team finish second in Liga NOS with a very healthy goal difference of +52. The Portuguese striker – which the nation has been craving for a long time – is a classic goal poacher, possesses a keen, sniper’s eye for goal, and can peel away from any defensive line.

He didn’t feature in Portugal’s Euro-winning campaign, and fills in as the main element they missed, resulting in the team playing a much more defensive and bullish style. Andre Silva is a big reason why Portugal have managed to pull even with Germany at odds of 5/2 when punters bet on the Confederations Cup; he completes their attack.

1. Timo Werner

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Coming in as the top under-21 player to watch at the Confederations Cup is Timo Werner, of Germany. Transferring from VfB Stuttgart to Red Bull Leipzig for £8.5 million last summer, Werner exploded into a 21-goal, seven-assist frenzy in 31 games for his new club. His accomplishments helped to pull the eastern Germany team of Leipzig all the way up the Bundesliga standings to finish second, only behind, you guessed it, Bayern Munich.

Timo Werner has been a part of the Germany set-up for quite some time now, playing and scoring regularly at under-15, 16, 17, 19, and under-21 levels before making his debut for Deutschland on March 22 of this year, in a 1-0 win against England. With three uncapped strikers – Amin Younes, Lars Stindl, Sandro Wagner – on the team, Werner looks poised to lead the line for Germany at the Confederations Cup.

How Would Alexis Sanchez Fit in at Manchester City?

Arsenal Vs Burnley” (CC BY 2.0) by joshjdss

Alexis Sanchez may well have played his last game for Arsenal, as elite vultures begin to circle the Premier League star before the transfer window opens on July 1st. It is likely that the Chilean will be prised away from the Emirates for the right price, as the man who contributed to 34 goals this season is desperate to see his efforts rewarded with silverware. Pep Guardiola signed Sanchez while at Barcelona and is eager to do the same again and bring him to the Etihad. But where would the ferocious attacker fit in Manchester City’s jam-packed attack?

As the season drew to a close it appeared as though Guardiola had struck on the right formula in front of goal, as the Cityzens finished the campaign on a high. The devastating attack (see video below) put away 15 goals in their final four matches and gave fans a glimpse of things to come next term. Guardiola has had a chance to familiarise himself with England’s top flight now, and it is expected that City will be challenging for the title all the way next time out. In fact, in the early season Betfred betting, Guardiola’s side are 9/4 to lift the trophy in the 2017-18 campaign, with new users able to claim a welcome offer worth up to £60.

It seems that Guardiola’s favoured line-up now is to play an attacking trident with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling either side of Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus. The effectiveness of this quartet of players was plain to see in the final days of the season, and Guardiola was able to rotate the four attackers around the three slots. Sanchez would add yet another option here, and would provide more depth for City as they look to battle on domestic and European fronts.

When signing Sanchez for Barcelona, Guardiola spoke of his appreciation of the deadly attacker’s ability to play an all-round game and occupy any of the attacking positions. Not only can the 28-year-old be deployed on the wings or at the spearhead, he also has the potential to flourish in a number 10 role just behind a central striker. The fact that Sanchez has established himself as one of the standout performers in the top flight suggests that when fit he will start, leaving the other attackers to fight it out between themselves for the remaining spots. This embarrassment of riches would leave City more than capable of outscoring any opponent.

City will have to act quickly if they want to secure Sanchez’s services, though. Other top clubs such as Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have expressed interest in the forward, and there is no doubt that they can offer him the opportunity to win trophies.

City may have the upper hand, as Sanchez has a good relationship with Guardiola and may want to stay in the Premier League. He should have no doubts about his security of starts, either, as even though City have a formidable force already, he is arguably the best of the bunch. If he does follow in the footsteps of former Gunners Samir Nasri, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Gael Clichy, and move to the blue side of Manchester, it’s hard not to back City for the title next term.

Pep vs Jose isn’t finished yet

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This Premier League season has been one of the most exciting in recent years, the football being played has been at a brilliant standard and English football in general has done itself proud on the European stage. The Premier League has a reputation for being exciting but has failed to attract big money players and world class managers in the past.

However, things are changing and the best players and the best managers are moving to England in search of success. This season saw the reemergence of Jose Mourinho as he took over Manchester United, following his departure from Chelsea in 2015. The Premier League also welcomed the debut season for Pep Guardiola as he took over Manchester City.

As the season draws to a close, many are wondering who has had the upper hand. Pep will finish his first ever campaign as manger without winning a trophy, his Manchester City side are currently fourth and are no longer in any other competition. Whereas, Mourinho’s men grabbed their first piece of silverware in Feburary’s EFL Cup Final as they beat Southampton 3-2. 

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“duke-0525” by Thomas Rodenbücher (CC BY 2.0)

Although, the former Chelsea manager isn’t done yet, his Man Utd side are chasing their Manchester counter-parts for a top four finish. Utd are just one point behind City and as always – the top four race is set up to be just as exciting as the race for first place. As predicted by Oddschecker, Liverpool came out victorious against Watford on Monday, and now sit comfortably in third place.

As well as winning a trophy already and trying to push Pep off fourth place – Mourinho has the little matter of a Europa League semi-final to attend to. Man United play Celta Vigo in one half of the tournament and Ajax play Lyon on the other. Manchester United are favourites to win the competition, which would certainly prove a point or two to those who mocked United for being sixth place for so long earlier in the season.

Manchester City haven’t had as much success with Pep, they recently lost out at a chance in the FA Cup Final when Arsenal beat them 2-1 and prior to that they were beaten by Champions League Semi-finalists Monaco in the round of 16.

Written by Tom Wilson.

FA Cup Final: Chelsea v Arsenal

The final teams have been decided and Arsenal booked their place at Wembley with a great win over Manchester City coming from 1 goal behind to win the game 2-1.

Chelsea booked their place after beating Tottenham Hotspur in a 6 goal thriller with the final result being 4-2. The game was extremely close and Spurs fans will be kicking themselves having nearly made the FA Cup final for the first time in years.
Can Chelsea win the FA Cup and go on to complete a domestic double, if so that would be a great achievement for a team that didn’t even qualify for Europe last year.

Chelsea have a high chance to beat Arsenal at Wembley on May 27th 2017 but with Arsenal winning the tournament for the past 2 years then this is truly a special final.

Not only are they London rivals they are also rivals in the league and therefore expect fireworks and goals when they play. Chelsea v Arsenal is one of the biggest games of the season and to have it in an FA Cup Final is a treat for all football fans.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will be looking to win the trophy to make him one of the most successful managers in world football history. With many fans wanting a change to the management at the club maybe this could be his last game after over 20 years in charge. Save the date: 27th May 2017 live at Wembley Stadium.

Getting Tickets

This is a high demand game and tickets will be selling for hundreds of pounds closer to the game. We fully expect Arsenal and Chelsea to sell their allocation and then the race is on for the demand in tickets. Adam Beaumont from SafeFootballTickets.com describes this game as one of the biggest in recent history.

Order your fa cup final tickets 2017 Chelsea v Arsenal online before the prices increase, which they are expected to with Arsenal and Chelsea both with a high fan base. When Arsenal played against Hull City in the last final tickets were sold for an average of £350 each, we fully expect them to reach way above £500GBP each for this game.

Whilst Wembley is one of the biggest stadiums in the world at 80,000 90,000 seats the majority of tickets for the game go to corporate hospitality, club Wembley and other designated receivers.

Will you be at the game? What is the most you would pay for a ticket to support your team? The official FA Website has more information on the full tournament for the readers that are doing research into this historical tournament. Emirates are the sponsors of the tournament and have done a great job in their marketing this year.

Talents losing out on ‘street-cred’ for wearing claret

The 2016/17 Premier League season is drawing to a close, and for some, it has been a revelation. For instance, AFC Bournemouth have once more staved off relegation thanks to the herculean efforts of Josh King in attack, although he would not have appeared in many fantasy football teams before the New Year.

New, swashbuckling youngsters have also broken through, particularly at Goodison Park, with the likes of Tom Davies and Mason Holgate already being tipped for senior international duties.

Sadly, for others, being overlooked and underrated remains a constant issue, but today – at any rate – they will receive the adulation they deserve. Over at Turf Moor, two players, in particular, stand out as overlooked.

‘Tom Heaton playing for Burnley in 2015’ Kelvin Stuttard via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The ‘Heat’ is on

This summer, Burnley will celebrate a second consecutive season in the top flight for the first time in the Premier League era. That is almost entirely thanks to some impressive home form, which has seen vital points taken from several teams in the top seven.

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton, relegated with Burnley in 2015 despite producing some excellent performances, showed immense loyalty – even when linked with boyhood club Liverpool – by staying at the club and helping them to achieve promotion at the first attempt. This season has been an obvious improvement, yet he remains on the periphery of Gareth Southgate’s plans for England, and it may take a change of jersey, for Heaton, if that is ever to change.

Case for the defence

Of course, a goalkeeper is nothing without trusty defenders. At centre back, Michael Keane has been a largely imposing figure – at least when given the luxury of home advantage. It is already the worst-kept secret that he is touted to fill the boots of veteran defender Phil Jagielka at Everton, and the rate of his progress implies that his first club, Manchester United, will regret swinging the axe prematurely.

However, Ben Mee has been as reliable a partner as Keane could have wished for. To date, the former England youth player has played in every single minute of Burnley’s impressive season, but remains firmly eclipsed by Keane as the press prepare for another hectic summer transfer window.

‘Arsenal Vs Burnley’ – JoshJDSS via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many people will be surprised to learn that Mee has, in fact, won more tackle per game than Michael Keane – winning out around 85% of the time, compared to Keane’s 64%.

A defender’s work often goes unnoticed, but for a striker to be overlooked is disastrous, and it is only ever a short time before they are shipped elsewhere.

Heaven and Hull

Back in December, there was the distinct possibility of 2016/17 going down as the highest-scoring Premier League season ever. Such is the optimism in strikers this season that, in English Premier League Betting on Paddy Power, bettors are currently being offered an immediate payout if any team they back goes two goals up.

Not everyone has enjoyed the party though, and perhaps most disappointed of all will be Leicester City striker Ahmed Musa. Arriving on a backdrop of minor hype, the Nigerian produced a scintillating individual performance in a 2016 pre-season game against Barcelona, and he was seen as a threat to Vardy.

But, against a skeleton Hull side with a midfielder at centre-half, he failed to live up to the occasion and found himself gradually exiled as Leicester plummeted into the relegation zone.

Perhaps it is time to give him just one more run out once the Foxes are mathematically safe?

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