Remember Dennis Bergkamp’s sensational spinning goal against Newcastle about 15 years ago? The one where he made Nikos Dabizas look a little bit silly and himself a little bit special? I do, but not fondly. Much as he was a sublime player, the Dutchman cost me £345 by defying the laws of physics that day and screwing up my first ever bet, a 10-way accumulator. I couldn’t believe it was so easy to (almost) win money, and I was instantly hooked to a life violently swinging between drama and disappointment – personal highlights include winning £720 on a double of Manchester United to beat Inter Milan and Barcelona to beat Lyon.
Since moving out to Russia I have closed my online accounts in the name of being a sensible family man, but the bug is still there, so I have decided to start a weekly set of tips where I will give myself a ghost sum each week and keep track of my running total as a substitute. This week there are some cracking fixtures in the Russian Premier League, and I will post my tips for how to make some money from this vast land.
I will give myself £30 each week and see how much of a profit I can turn.
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Bet 1 Saturday 5 March , Krasnodar v Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit to win, Over 2.5 goals £10 @ 10/3
Potential Return: £43.33
Krasnodar are the hipster’s choice: they are owned by Sergey Galitskiy, the boss of Russia’s largest supermarket chain Magnit, who is the Daniel Levy of the RPL. They have moved smartly in the transfer market to snap up Vyacheslav Podberezkin – one of the brightest attacking talents in the country – and Stanislav Kritsyuk on loan as back up in goal. They boast the meanest defence at home, but they are up against the most formidable strike force in Russia.
In Hulk they have russianfootballnews.com’s player of 2015, and in the summer they have added the ‘Russian Harry Kane/Andy Carroll/Peter Crouch’ (depending on your viewpoint) in Artyom Dzyuba. Add Oleg Shatov, a lightning quick former futsal inside forward, Alexander Kokorin and Danny, and it isn’t hard to see why they are the league’s top goalscorers this season. They have only failed to score away from home once since the summer, and while they haven’t won on the road since August they have the momentum of a successful transfer window, a Russian Cup win and impressive European form.
Bet 2 Sunday 6 March, CSKA Moscow v Spartak Moscow
Roman Shirokov to score anytime £10 @ 7/2
Potential Return: £45
The controversial captain of Russia is a character than cannot be ignored. He grew up in CSKA’s youth setup but had trouble with gambling, drinking and authority – he even fabricated a story about a broken arm to party with his friends as as teenager – and developed a reputation as troublemaker. A late developer, he only completed a full top-flight season at the age of 26, but after arriving at Zenit he finally began delivering on his early promise.A couple of seasons spent mostly on loan have threatened to tarnish his career legacy, but now he is reunited with his national team boss Leonid Slutskiy (the podgy chap who sways back and forwards on the bench in Champions League games) with the motivation of leading his country against England and Wales at Euro 2016, he is in a perfect place to sign off his career with a bang. A stunning goal and equally impressive pass to help create another in their Russian Cup win over Ufa this week show he is already comfortable in his attacking role ahead of Pontus Wernbloom and Alan Dzagoev.
Bet 3 Monday 7 March, Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast v Dinamo Moscow
Over 1.5 first half goals £10 @ 12/5
Potential Return: £34
Ural are an odd team to watch. They have been involved in more goals than any other side in the league at home (32 in just 8 matches), and yet their only senior striker is the 35-year-old Spartak Gogniev; their manager at the start of the season, Viktor Goncharenko, is Eastern Europe’s most promising young manager, but was sacked after a betting scandal and only one win in the first seven matches. His assistant then won five of the next seven matches to take them to the brink of the European places.
They have conceded in the first half in four of their last five home games, and with Dinamo having reinforced reasonably well given the FFP restrictions that have hit them hard this season, I expect the visitors to start strongly. They finished the autumn in dreadful disarray with only three goals on their travels since the beginning of August, but with the promising but relatively unknown Fatos Beqiraj up front they no longer rely on Reading reject Pavel Pogrebnyak for goals.
*All odds are taken from bet365.com