Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford all remain out for the Bulls. Tomas Satoransky and Lauri Markkanen are probable. Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley are both out for the Kings. This should be a straightforward game for the Kings as they desperately need to start winning and they play a team they didn't take seriously in the previous matchup. The Kings' injuries to their big men shouldn't hurt them too much against a team that continues to trot out Luke Kornet and Cristiano Felicio to man the post and they should be able to get plenty of open shots against the Bulls' defensive scheme. There's only one way to bet this in our opinion!
Robin Lopez is out for the Bucks. Wes Matthews is probable. The Hornets have a clean injury report. This game will take place in Paris, France which is the reason for the earlier than usual start. The two coaches are quite familiar with each other but took different approaches to minimize the jet lag. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer held a brief practice shortly after the Bucks got off the plane Tuesday then gave his team Wednesday off. Hornets' coach James Borrego chose to run practices on both Wednesday and Thursday in Paris. The Bucks look to be taking this game a bit less seriously though they can surely afford it being one of the best teams facing one of the worst teams. We expect a bit of a slow start for them and we expect the Hornets to look to control the tempo throughout, playing a half court game. We also expect the officiating to be a bit more European style to appease the hosts meaning fewer fouls called and a more physical and defensive game to develop. All things considered, we see only one way to bet this!
WTA PICK - The dream for Caroline Wozniacki to retire on a high continues after she battled back to beat Dayana Yastremska. In the first set the Dane was trailing 5/1 before her opponent started to rack up the unforced errors. The 2nd set started the same way with Yastremska breaking twice to go 3-0 ahead, but then came the wobble from the 19 year old. What Caro did is stay consistent, and stick to a game plan. Even when her opponent cried wolf by calling for a MTO the 26 year old stayed composed. All in all, a good day at the office for the former winner of this tournament! Next up is the vastly under-rated Ons Jabeur. The Tunisian got off to a slow start against old foe Caroline Garcia, but she came back strong to win sets 2 + 3 comfortably. In her press interview the 25 year old said she was targeting a top 20 finish this season, and we believe she’s talented enough to manage just that! Jabeur is tough, with a start why not!
Charlton quartet Lyle Taylor, Chris Solly, Josh Cullen and Sam Field could all return to contention. Striker Taylor, who returned to action in December following a long-term knee injury, has missed the last three matches and Solly was absent for Saturday's defeat at Preston due to illness. Cullen (ankle) also missed out at the weekend and Field (knee), on loan from West Brom, has been sidelined since October. Jake Forster-Caskey jarred his knee in training last week and remains unavailable. Fulham strikers Aleksandar Mitrovic and Aboubakar Kamara will not be ready in time to feature. Mitrovic damaged ankle ligaments in the recent win at Hull and is expected to be out until next month, while Kamara has played no part since the home defeat to Reading on New Year's Day. Defender Steven Sessegnon (groin) and midfielder Harrison Reed (calf) will also be assessed, but remain doubtful. Fulham can close the gap on second-placed Leeds to a single point with victory. No real home advantage here, because Fulham to Charlton is just 10 miles. Th Cottagers have been winning without star striker Mitrovic, and no doubt Charlton are still short on players. Fulham have become a lot tighter at the back, so don’t expect a gung-ho like in the reverse match! Big opportunity to close the gap on the faltering leaders for Fulham!
WTA PREMIUM - Here is a 2nd one on us ————Svetlana Kuznetsova leads head to heads 2-0, albeit she was 5.5 years younger when they last met in 2014. In recent years the 34 year old hasn’t been able to play much, and since the start of 2018 she’s just 28/27. The former number two (2008) is now down at rank 53, and their wasn’t enough in the first round win over Vondrousova to suggest a big come-back. In fact, we thought her opponent had a real bad day at the office, and it’s all part of the inconsistent WTA factor! Would also like to point at winning just 8/24 2nd serves for Sveta! Camila Giorgi hasn’t been very fortunate with health over the past couple of years. Add to that her father is a nutcase, then we need to commend the Italian for hanging in there. Giorgi’s first round win was a good one, and more important she at least appeared to be moving freely. The challenge now is moving the ball around court and not allowing Sveta to pin her back to the base-line!
WTA PREMIUM TIP - We might add a 2nd later, check back to see if we had time ———— We made a mental note after watching the opening win of Karolina Muchova. In fact, we made several including: ‘’silly girl, unstable, frustrating, don’t trust and stay away’’. To be honest, they are the ones we can send-out, the others where not has polite! Of course we are referring to Muchova’s performance against Kirstin Flipkens. After comfortably taking the first set, she again lost focus and with it the 2nd set. After leading the third set 4-0, she allowed the Belgium girl to come-back and force a tie breaker. After taking a 4-8 lead, her opponent closed to 7-8 before Muchova found the 2 winners. Cici Bellis had no problem beating Tatjana Maria. This is an obvious step up in class for the American teenie, but she’s fit again and can cause her opponent problems! Emotions have no place in betting, analytics do. Their is no way Muchova can go into the 2nd round with confidence, and even if she does Cici should be ready!
For the Pelicans, Kenrich Williams remains out. Jahlil Okafor, Josh Hart, Derrick Favors and Zion Williamson are listed as questionable. Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick are probable. For the Spurs, Demarre Carroll is questionable and Rudy Gay is probable. Zion Williamson is fully expected to finally make his NBA debut for the Pelicans but he will most likely be on a heavy minutes restriction. We don't think there's too much to be made regarding his presence although he does help with frontcourt depth. At any rate, there should be plenty of mismatches for both sides to exploit and neither have been sound defensively anyway. We expect a high scoring game!
For the Suns, Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes both remain out. Cam Johnson is questionable. For the Pacers, Victor Oladipo remains out and Aaron Holiday is questionable. The Suns' frontcourt depth is lacking with Baynes sidelined and the Pacers have two top big men in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner to exploit this. The Suns lack shooting at the moment and the Pacers don't make anything easy for their opponents. The scheduling has been difficult for the Pacers with back to back games at altitude but with a full day to rest, we believe they should be able to come away with the victory!
Otto Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford remain out for the Bulls. Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchison and Ryan Arcidiacono are all probable. For the Timberwolves, Jake Layman remains out. The Bulls are still trotting out Luke Kornet and Cristiano Felicio to man the inside and this is an incredibly bad matchup against one of the premier big men in the league in Karl-Anthony Towns. On the other side, the Bulls' outside shooting should get back on track against the Twolves' dismal defense and while the Bulls' defenes creates lots of turnovers, their gambling style is high risk and high reward. We see plenty of scoring chances for both sides!
WTA PREMIUM PICK — What about this for a stat - Ons Jabeur leads head to heads 5-0! All we need here is for Ons Jabeur to play her game, because that would almost certainly suffice to get the better of Caroline Garcia and make it 6-0. At last years US open, the Tunisian won a first round match against Garcia. For the record, that made it 4-0 at slams. While 25 year old Jabeur isn’t the most consistent player on tour, she comes into this match at a good time. In the last round a win over Jo Konta told us she’s fully in the zone, and so did her effort in Hobart. Garcia was good enough to come back and beat Brengle, but that doesn’t mean a lot. The fact is she’s been below her best for a while now, and she will need her opponent to have a bad day! The biggest asset of Jabeur is her return of serve, that’s one of the reasons she’s got a very good record against this opponent!
PREMIUM PICK - Not much consistency in this seasons premier league, and many of the big named clubs are failing to deliver. Both of these teams would fit into that category, albeit Chelsea have a valid excuse. Prior to the season starting the Blues received a transfer ban. That meant new coach Frank Lampard was asked to build a tam integrating many younger players. In the whole this has gone well, although Chelsea have been failing to beat lower graded clubs. At the weekend the lack of a ruthless striker was again apparent has Chelsea failed to nail Newcastle. And, while a 94th minute goal for their opponent was hard, it was also a reality check. With the future in mind, the Blues need one of two things to happen. Either Lampard changes the formation to get more players into the opponents box, or they bring in a new striker. Asking Tammy Abraham to be more instinctive isn’t going to work, he needs help from someone more aggressive! On a positive note, Chelsea are likely to benefit from playing a team who will come at them! At the weekend, Arsenal let a 1-0 lead slip against Sheffield United. It was again another lack lustre performance for the Gunners, and it clearly leaves new boss Mikael Arteta must be wondering what he can do. Improvement is going to b next to impossible without best player and suspended captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, because he’s the only player performing!. The Blues won the reverse fixture easier than the 2-1 implies, they are likely to dust up a struggling opponent again!
WTA PREMIUM PICK - Last chance to get the ‘’WTA Aussie Spcial’’ — Just €60 for the whole tournament (circa 50 picks) — Offer open to 22.00 Paris time tonight (2 hours) —— firstname.lastname@example.org —————Karolina Muchova should win this with a bit to spare. On the back of last years 38/14, the Czech started the new campaign at rank 21. Muchova won last years Seoul, and she also beat Riske and Kenin to make the semi final of the ‘’Elite’’ . 29 of her 38 wins came in straight sets, and she’s had plenty of time to properly prepare for this match against unorthodox Kirsten Flipkens. Despite being 34 years old Flipper can still play her level. In fact, her last five seasons ended with 28-32-28-31-30 wins, consistency pure! A rank of 79 looks about right, but it’s worth noting she has only got over the first obstacle here on one occasion in the last three years!