With 2022 coming to an end, bet365 have a host of New Year specials for 2023 and Graham Hunter and Steve Freeth have taken a look at a few, including Lionel Messi's future - and his Ballon d'Or hopes.
First off, here's a sequence of players - let us know when you’ve worked out the answer:
Peter Schmeichel… Brad Friedel… Paul Robinson… got it yet? Tim Howard… Asmir Begovic… Alisson.
They’re the six goalkeepers to score a Premier League goal, and bet365 are 11/1 that a goalkeeper scores in the Premier League in 2023.
At first glance, it may look a little short for something that seems to never happen, but it’s actually happened six times in 20 years, meaning we’ve seen a goalkeeper score more often than one in every four seasons.
And while we had nearly an eight-year drought, Alisson’s goal in 2021 was certainly well worth the wait. Surely the best goal a keeper has scored in the Premier League, it was also the first winning goal by a keeper, and a header that any centre-forward would’ve been proud of.
Okay, a little easier this time: Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Jermain Defoe, Dimitar Berbatov, Sergio Aguero.
Yes, they’re the five players who’ve scored five goals in a Premier League game, and it's 11/1 that a player scores five or more in a Premier League match in 2023.
Remarkably, four goals have been scored by a player 34 times in the Premier League era, with both Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne scoring four against Watford and Wolves respectively
Sergio Aguero scored his five in a ridiculous 20-minute spell either side of half-time against Newcastle back in 2015, with Berbatov and Shearer bagging their hauls in routs against Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, while Cole and Defoe got theirs as Manchester United and Tottenham put nine past Ipswich and Wigan. Which brings us to our next special…
Andy Cole’s five-goal haul against Ipswich wasn’t just the first time a player had scored five goals in a Premier League game, it was the first time a team had scored nine.
We had to wait 14 years for another team to score nine in a match when Tottenham did it against Wigan. But in three of the last four years we’ve seen nine goals scored by a Premier League side.
Look away now, Southampton fans…
In 2019, Leicester put nine past Southampton on the south coast no less, becoming the first – and to date only – side to score nine on the road.
In 2021, Manchester United repeated the feat and in 2022, Liverpool came as close as anyone has, being 6-0 up with the best part of 45 minutes to play and 7-0 up just past the hour.
The gap between top and bottom is certainly growing; Manchester City have already put six past two teams – one being Manchester United – this season, and scored five or more in seven games last season, and it wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see either them or Liverpool – or perhaps even one of the other big boys – put nine past someone in 2023.
But will anyone reach 10? It's 18/1 that they do.
Jude Bellingham was tremendous at the World Cup, and only a premature exit at the quarter-finals took him out of the running for the FIFA Young Player Award. He's been brilliant for Borussia Dortmund and it's surely a matter of time before he's on the move to even bigger and better things.
He looked like a leader throughout England's World Cup campaign, particularly after Harry Kane's penalty miss against France. The teenager was first to console and encourage the skipper, showing a maturity well beyond his years. He's surely an England captain in waiting, and bet365 are 6/1 that he starts a match with the armband in 2023.
Brazil were well fancied for the World Cup; it looked like only they could stop themselves from adding a sixth star, but the penalty shootout defeat to Croatia means that Brazil are once again looking for a new manager.
You wouldn't need both hands to list the number of great Brazilian managers we've seen over the years, with Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlos Alberto Parreira both lifting the World Cup, and both being brought back for multiple stints in charge of the Selecao.
Herein is the problem for Brazil. They want Brazilian managers, but the coaching conveyor belt isn't churning them out. Dunga, Mano Menezes and Tite had next to no foreign managerial experience prior to taking the Brazil job, and each of them failed in their quest to deliver a World Cup. Reports suggest the ACF may finally look further afield, and Brazil are to be managed by a foreign coach in 2023.
After finding himself head and shoulders above the competition, Jon Rahm was finally deposed as world number one by Scottie Scheffler thanks to an incredible run of form in the spring of 2022, before himself being deposed by Rory McIlroy, and that was no mean feat.
Frankly, McIlroy was the best golfer for the majority of 2022, but it wasn't until autumn when he finally recaptured the number one spot. It was a season of three wins on the PGA Tour, top-10 finishes in all four majors and an average finish inside the top five across six DP World Tour events.
We won't bore you with the endless calculations made to decide who ranks where, but the key points are: points count for two years, but decrease each week 13 weeks after collecting them, and majors are worth much more than regular PGA Tour events.
The last four year-end number ones read Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, with the Northern Irishman 6/4 to be there at the end of 2023.
A little bit like Rob Cross did in 2017, Josh Rock has come out of nowhere to find himself among the big boys in the darting world. The difference is, while Cross was only 28 when his breakthrough came at the 2018 World Championship, Rock is even younger at 21, and the world seems to be his oyster.
He rose to prominence with a nine-darter against Michael van Gerwen at the 2022 Grand Slam of Darts before winning the PDC World Youth Championship. He's also appeared in a handful of quarter-finals on the European Tour, and bet365 make it a 5/2 shot that the Northern Irishman wins any premier ranking event commencing in 2023.
England have blown away all and sundry under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes. Incredibly, prior to the first Test against Pakistan in December, Joe Root had played 69 matches at four and had never come to the crease with England 160/2 or better. Perhaps an indictment of England's coaching or indeed Root's captaincy, but certainly their struggle to find top-quality opening batters.
Well, without serious personnel change, England have managed it. It's a brand of Test cricket never seen before, and while England have wins over Pakistan, India and New Zealand, the Ashes feels like the true litmus test.
The white ball sides have been amongst the world's best for a number of years now, and the red ball side appears to be finally catching up, and England are 9/1 to win the Ashes and 2023 Cricket World Cup.