Saturday, 17 November 2018

UEFA Nations League - England vs Croatia


After what has been a topsy turvy group, with Spain winning in England and Croatia beating Spain after losing to them 6-0 in the away game, the deciding match is here. Croatia head to Wembley, looking to repeat the incredible win there in 2008 to put the Three Lions out of UEFA Euro 2008. This time, they arrive as World Cup finalists, having recently defeated Spain in an impressive, late comeback win.

Can they repeat the trick of a decade ago? Or will it be more like the famous Theo Walcott hat-trick in Zagreb?

England News


This should be a good time to test out some other names, and also to give the John Stones – Joe Gomez partnership another run. Short of an experienced defender of quality outside of Harry Maguire, the young duo could be the defensive pairing for a long time to come. A good time to try them out.

However, a potential midfield trio of Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli should offer something decent. Henderson and Dier can offer a lot of industry, while Alli is the creative spark. Up top, the effervescent Raheem Sterling will likely play alongside Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard.

Croatia News


Meanwhile, Croatia come into this one with some decent form of their own. A strong win against Spain was very well received, and it’ll be up to the electric front three of Andre Kramaric, Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic to do the same damage here. Kramaric was never given a great chance when he played in England with Leicester City, but has been a revelation in Germany and for his national side.

In midfield, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic are likely to play, with Marcelo Brozovic sititng inbetween. That midfield, like the England side, has plenty of industry and craft but might lack an out and out runner. In defence, expect Domegoj Vida to partner Dejan Lovren, with winner-scoring Tin Jedjaj at full-back, Sime Vrsaljko the other side.

Verdict


This should be a cracking match. Croatia, though, don’t travel well and the defensive pairing aren’t known for their cool heads in passionate matches. Expect this to be a great match-up, with England coming out on top – but only just.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Premier League – Manchester United vs Manchester City


After what feels like a very interesting week of football, the Manchester derby has a new edge to it. While always a flagship game in the Premier League, Manchester United arrive at The Etihad Stadium knowing that they could put themselves back in the most unlikely of title shouts.

With Liverpool potentially taking the three points against Fulham (though recent form from Liverpool makes that less certain) earlier on in the day, as well as Chelsea taking on Everton and Arsenal hosting Wolves all before kick-off, the pressure is on.

Can United get themselves right back in it? Or can City make sure they remain very much the club to beat in England?

Betting Odds


A look at the current betting odds shows that home team Manchester City are currently 2/5 to win, with Manchester United at 6-1. In any other year, those odds would seem generous for Jose Mourinho's team, but this year has seen them struggle for the most part – that said recent form has been an improvement. It would seem that the bookmakers aren't ruling out a goal fest either, with betting odds of just 6-1 on their being more than five goals. I can't see it being such a walkover, myself. If I intended to place a bet, I'd likely go with odds of 5-1 for United to be winning at half time. That may seem like an unusual choice, but they have quality players and so while even away from home, a good spell early on might mean they could go into half time a goal up.

City News


After rattling in 12 goals in two games, the tails are up for City. They look more fearsome than any other side in the league, and boast an exceptional defence. Expect City to come into this with more or less a full complement, too, making it hard to really see them struggle to put together a wining line-up.

While Kevin de Bruyne being out should derail a side, this City team are something else. They’ll be ready to do some damage, especially after blowing the last derby between the two clubs at home last year – the fateful 2-3 loss to blow a title winning derby.

United News


1-0 down against Juventus and looking well and truly outclassed, United grabbed two goals from thin air to win 2-1. The Red Devil are making a habit of springing late comebacks and wins, and are actually doing more than just grin and bear results out: they are playing like they have found the same verve that seem them win here last season.

With some injuries mounting up and a challenging few games, though, United might struggle to match City for the full 90.

Verdict


We can see City winning this – though the procession many would have expected not too long ago feels like it would be quite a shock now. Such is the quality of how United are playing, City will need to make good of their oppositions sluggish starts to get in control of this one.

If they can make sure they are out of sight of a comeback, using their own desire to start fast versus the more serene pace of United, City could win this handsomely. However, we see it being a close home win – a lot closer than many would have expected as the season has progressed.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Big Brother 2018 Winner

The news that this would be the last ever Big Brother (though who knows if that's really the case) added a certain poignancy for fans of the series. Love it or loathe it, Big Brother was the first big reality TV show to catch the imagination of the public in a huge way and was a fascinating social experiment to boot.

This season (Big Brother 19) got off to an decent start and although ratings were certainly nothing to write home about, some intriguing dynamics emerged within the house. Lewis being there for Cameron when he came out, the 'bigcoin' bidding aspect to the series, the game changer, mixing it up with new housemates Hussain and Isabella. I'd say that the mix and happenings within the house definitely kept the attention of fans until the 'final furlong' to apply a racing term to proceedings.


Once the disruptive and egocentric yet affable Hussain was voted out, it very much become the Lewis show. He has a slight cult leader quality about him, and is a rather complex person in terms of Big Brother personalities. Since he was at the centre of eveything, and indeed was favourite with bookmakers to win Big Brother, it threw a massive spanner in the works when he was recently removed for what have been stated were antisemitic comments. It appears that what was said was actually intended to be a joke and impression, so it was likely foolishness as much as anything else and an unfortunate episode for all concerned.

The consequence of his removal so late in the day is that it seems rather like the air was been let out of the balloon now. There are very few (if any) strong personalities left in the house, with individuals like Zoe, Brooke and Sian needing something approaching a miracle to win the top prize of £100,000. Cian is perhaps the most deserving of the bunch in that he tries to see the good in everything and everyone come what may. He's 14-1 to win (5th Nov edit: He's since shorted to 7/2 with Akeem losing support in the betting market).

This will likely be seen by many to be a two horse race though, with Akeem currently at 11/8 and Cameron 4/5.  I'd say that Cameron certainly has the  best story arc, which can definitely count for something in these shows. He's a moody one, but at least we can say he's being himself. Akeem is Mr Middle of the road. He comes across like he's doing what he needs to do to cruise the top prize. That said he is a friendly guy and has certainly rolled with the punches when he's been treated unfairly on occasion by other housemates. It's a coin toss one to be honest, and out of the two I think I'd go for Cameron to win.

Monday, 22 October 2018

4.20 Newmarket, Wednesday, October 24


All the runners in the AR Legal Fillies’ Handicap (4.20) at Newmarket on Wednesday have question marks over them, for one reason or another, but the one who has fewest, perhaps, is course and distance winner Highland Pass. The daughter of Passing Glance steps into 0-100 handicap company for the first time, but a 4lb rise in the weights for her 1½-length defeat of Amandine in a small 0-95 contest over course and distance last month looks entirely fair.


The runner-up, although perhaps not the most resolute filly in training, had previously only been headed close home when beaten three-quarters of a length in a similar race to this one at Ascot on her previous outing, so it would be no surprise if Highland Pass proved equal to this slight rise in class. She took half a dozen starts to find her form this season, but has officially improved 13lb since opening her account for the campaign, in a lowly 0-65 affair at Salisbury, in August and may still be improving. A collateral form line involving Sayem, trained by Ed Walker, suggests that Crotchet just has the edge on these terms but, unlike Highland Pass, Richard Fahey’s filly will find the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket an entirely different test from Musselburgh, where she’s been doing her winning of late.


It rarely pays to be dogmatic about the outcome of a horse race, but now that I see the case for Highland Pass written down in black-and-white the stronger it becomes. In a race full of if, buts and maybes, she clearly holds an outstanding chance and it’ll be disappointing if she doesn’t go very close, at least, to bring home the proverbial bacon.



Selection: Newmarket 4.20 Highland Pass to win 5/1

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Chelsea vs Manchester United - 20th Oct


For many years, Chelsea playing Manchester United has been a Premier League classic. From the days of Wise and Zola to Drogba and Anelka, the Blues have often been a thorn in the side of the Red Devils. Throw in the fact that the away side are managed by the greatest manager in Chelsea history, and this game carries a spark that your average rivalry does not.

Who will win, though? Can United continue their second half rebound against Newcastle United? Or will Maurizio Sarri continue to show that adapting to the English game isn’t quite so challenging as once assumed?

Chelsea News


Unbeaten all season, Chelsea have easily been one of the best performers in the league – and in Europe. Electric going forward and relatively solid at the back, albeit still giving up chances, the Blues should feel good coming into this one. While they’ll be without the impressive Antonio Rudiger, they will have far less injury woes to worry about compared to their opponents.

Overall, Chelsea arrive into this one in fine form both in terms of injuries and performances.

Manchester United News


Meanwhile, United could be without as many as eight players. The likes of Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are all doubts. Alexis Sanchez might miss out, too. Jesse Lingard and Marcos Rojo are both out, also.

For United, that leaves them with a short number of options in terms of depth, which could play a key role in how this tie will play out across the 90’.

Verdict


A Chelsea win feels very likely. United may have stopped the flow of lost points with a win against Newcastle, but they aren’t up to much at the moment. Expect Chelsea to work an poorly co-ordinated United defence to the point of domination: this could be a big game for Mourinho, and not just for his United future.