The Week Ahead: Five 'must have' bets for the coming seven days

Preston look a good price to beat Swindon at Wembley on Sunday
Preston look a good price to beat Swindon at Wembley on Sunday

Three more winners for the editors means the 'Five Bets' column has now turned a profit for five consecutive weeks. The guys aren't happy with three or four winners each time though, they're after the full house. Will this be the magical week as they eke out bets in cricket, football, darts, and golf?

Back Rory McIlroy @ 3.814/5 to Win

"He is the defending champion at Wentworth of course, and the golf he is playing currently is on a different planet to anyone else other than a certain Jordan Spieth perhaps, who isn't in this week's field either by the way."

1. Test Match Cricket
Back the draw in New Zealand v England @ 3.185/40
Starts Thursday, 11:00
Live on Sky Sports

Given the state of disarray in the England camp right now - Peter Moores sacked; Kevin Pietersen saga ongoing; Stuart Broad missing a sponsor event with a 'migraine' - it's quite tempting to back the Kiwis here at a juicy 3.711/4 but, while I'm keen on opposing the hosts, I think a draw is a safer bet.

While you can't see England taking 20 wickets on what is likely to be a flat Lord's track given the lack of depth in the seam department and the absence of a top quality spinner, the tourists may also struggle to do enough for victory given that the spine of their team - McCullum, Willliamson, Southee, Boult - have just got off the plane from the IPL and will be diving straight into Test action with little preparation.

As Ed Hawkins notes, New Zealand will probably be happy with the stalemate at HQ as they will find conditions more to their liking in the second Test at Headingley. Back them to get it. DT

2. Golf - BMW PGA Championship
Back Rory McIlroy @ 3.814/5 to Win

Thursday - Sunday
Live on Sky Sports 4

Rory McIlroy was available to back at 5.04/1 to win this week's European Tour event when the market first opened at the weekend, and that was an astonishing price given that he was a shorter price than that to win last week's better quality Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour, which he won in a romp.

There's a very poor turnout for Europe's flagship event at Wentworth - Luke Donald is a 28.027/1 shot for example whereas he's been trading at triple figures in recent tournaments in America - and two of Europe's most in-form players, Sergio Garcia, and Ian Poulter, haven't even bothered to turn up, while Paul Casey doesn't have a European Tour card anymore.

All in all McIlroy looks an excellent wager, even at 3.814/5, as his form in recent weeks has been outstanding. He is the defending champion at Wentworth of course, and the golf he is playing currently is on a different planet to anyone else other than a certain Jordan Spieth perhaps, who isn't in this week's field either by the way. MN

3. Premier League Darts
Back Michael van Gerwen to win outright at 2.01/1
Thursday, 19:10
Live on Sky Sports 1

The darting extravaganza that is the Premier League comes to an end for another year on Thursday with a pair of great looking semi-finals, ahead of the final on the same night. First up is Dave Chisnall against world champ Gary Anderson followed by the clash of the Dutch masters as world number one Michael van Gerwen takes on the revitalised Raymond van Barneveld.

Anderson and MVG are both odds-on favourites for their semis and, while it is easy to make a case for both Chizzy and Barney to cause an upset given how well they are playing, I think the market has it right, so will be backing Van Gerwen in the outright to give us a decent price.

The Dutchman showed his character last week, responding to Chisnall's incredible 161 checkout in the penultimate leg with a 108 finish of his own in the last to secure top spot, and I'll take him to handle the pressure on finals night to emerge victorious. DT

4. Premier League Football
Back Aston Villa @ 2.1411/10 to beat Burnley
Sunday, 15:00

There are a lot of dead rubbers on the final day of the Premier League season but one team that I fancy will be desperate to go out on a winning note is Aston Villa following last week's drubbing at Southampton, so against goal-shy Burnley they have to be backed at any price above even money.

Tim Sherwood was furious after last week's 6-1 loss and he certainly won't want the league season to end on such a low note with failure to beat the Clarets. Villa will be up for this and their recent form - the Saints game apart of course - is more than good enough to beat a Burnley side that has scored just two goals in over 1,000 minutes of football.

Villa still have a cup final to look forward to of course, so players will be out to impress on Sunday and Sherwood's men will look to quickly put a heavy defeat behind them with a good performance at Villa Park. MN

5. League One Football - Play-off Final
Back Preston @ 2.245/4 to beat Swindon
Sunday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1

Preston's only blip in their last 21 League One games was a costly one, a final day loss to Colchester meant Simon Grayson's men missed out on automatic promotion. Their 18-game unbeaten run prior to that defeat and a very comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over Chesterfield in the play-off semi-final marks North End out as the form team going into their clash with Swindon and I fancy they'll get the victory.

Preston finished 10 points ahead of The Robins in the table as well as recording a comfortable 3-0 victory over Mark Cooper's men just three weeks ago, so they ought to be full of confidence going into Sunday's winner-takes-all Wembley final.

Swindon went five games without a win at the end of the regulation season before being involved in a crazy 5-5 draw against Sheff Utd in the second leg of the semi-final (won 7-6 on aggregate) and you just wonder how much more they have left in the tank. Besides that though, Preston are clearly the more in-form side and just about proved throughout the season that they are the better team. MN

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