Gunners favoured to start season on a winning note

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong punters this weekend get a tasty starter before the main course when Manchester United take on Arsenal for the Community Shield - the first English match available for betting with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Tomorrow's match is the traditional curtain-raiser to the English Premiership season, which begins next weekend, and brings together the best teams in the country. Manchester United are favoured after their strong run-in last season which saw them snatch the title from Arsenal, but it is too early to write off the London side and they are the value bet. It is easy to sympathise with Arsene Wenger's assertion that Arsenal were the better team last season and they have a settled line-up, including two truly world-class players in Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.

United have lost their two most creative players in David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron and may not gel immediately. History suggests Arsenal take this fixture more seriously and a correct score of 2-0 or 2-1 to Arsenal looks a good option.

There is another full programme from the German Bundesliga but solid betting opportunities are thin. There were a few surprises on the opening weekend and form lines are not well enough established to make too many firm assumptions just yet. The most unappealing match for spectators, Freiburg versus Hansa Rostock, is the best betting prospect as goals should be scarce and punters can get some value by banking on a low-scoring encounter. Dividing stakes on a 0-0 draw and 1-0 either way looks a good bet.

The other two matches to concentrate on are Werder Bremen versus Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund versus Wolfsburg, where punters should be looking at bets with a strong home supremacy. Either of those can provide the basis for an All Up, with a draw at 1860 Munich and wins for Arsenal and Hansa Rostock offering more value.

Best homes: Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen.

Best aways: Hansa Rostock, Bayer Leverkusen.

High goals: Stuttgart v Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen v Borussia Monchengladbach.

Low goals: Cologne v Kaiserslautern, Freiburg v Hansa Rostock.