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.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Khabib Nurmagomedov v Conor McGregor: Bigmouth Strikes Again


Conor McGregor is clearly a very talented athlete and from humble beginnings what he's achieved is the stuff of Hollywood movies.  He is reported to have made $100 million from the Mayweather fight alone.

Much like boxing, the UFC is often full of bravado and it can be argued that's what helps contribute to the compelling match ups and rivalries that develop within combat sports. The Mayweather vs McGregor fight had more 'press tour' than fight and so it's clearly a tactic that pays off, even if it does come across as unsavoury at times. As it happens McGregor represented himself rather well in that fight, which wasn't really something many anticipated beforehand. He does often back up his own talk with results.

There are aspects of good fortune to all of this too. McGregor isn't undefeated, and so to have huge money fights fall into his lap and for the stars to align in such a way that there are these cross over events is partly down to luck rather than any kind of masterplan. From McGregor's own behaviour outside of the ring, we can see that thinking about his actions isn't always at the forefront of his mind.

He's carried his tried and tested braggadocious, confrontation persona into the Khabib fight too - trotting out the mind games that he feels will both boost his bank balance (and they will!) and allow him to get into the head of his opponent is the order of the day.

The potential downfall in this strategy may well be a combination of the fact that he doesn't really even need to be there, and being out of the ring for two years. Is the hunger still there? He may well gain a lot of confidence from his past successes and showman ways, but that's not of any use once he's in the Octagon. We've often seen what happens in boxing for instance when a fighter's ego is intact but ability is diminished after a break from the ring. Nurmagomedov's grappling game is second to none, he's undefeated and seems prepared to let his performance on the night do the talking. If McGeogor's trademark speed and power remains it could be lights out, but many believe that his opponent will try to take this to the ground fast, and go to work, making for a difficult night for McGregor.

This is a tough fight to call and the odds reflect that. Khabib is currently 5/8 on the exchanges and I'd be inclined to go for that if I was betting on the fight. The 17-1 for Khabib to win in round 4 is tempting too, considering he'll likely try to smoother and tire McGregor. Whatever happens, it's likely to be a very lively encounter!


Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Brighton vs West Ham United - 5th May


While it’s still very early in the season, it’s fair to say that Brighton and Hove Albion versus West Ham United has a very big ‘six pointer’ feel to it. Chris Hughton was widely praised at the beginning of the season for making Brighton look so solid, whilst West Ham’ manager, Manuel Pellegrini, was already being threatened with the sack.

With United on the up and Brighton struggling a touch more, though, will the narrative switch?

Brighton and Hove Albion News


Now below West Ham in the table, Brighton have not won in five games so far. With two losses on the spin, too, the problems are beginning to rack up: and it could cause some serious issues for the long-term confidence of the squad.

So far, Shane Duffy has probably been among their best performances, although two goals so far definitely helps to pad that out. Glenn Murray already has four, so goals aren’t a major issue. If the defence – already 13 conceded – don’t turn off the taps, though, that could change. A leaky defence always has a negative impact on the attack.

West Ham United News


For West Ham, the impressive performance of Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson will have Hammers sighing with relief. The dynamic duo were expected to lead a rebuilt West Ham attack, and only now are beginning to look ready to take on that mantle. So, too, is ex-Dortmund man Andriy Yarmolenko.

The Ukraine international is hitting some good form at present, with two goals in the league so far. Anderson’ cheeky flick against United should boost his self-belief, too. For West Ham, there’s a chance to build some momentum with two win and a draw from their last three.

Verdict


We sense a score-draw here. Both sides can attack, but leak defences – 25 goals conceded already between them, only 16 scored – could see this produce a few goals. Expect this to be a fun and frantic match, with both teams probably happy to get a share of the points.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool (15th Sept)


As one of the flagship games on the Premier League calendar, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool meet for what should be a fantastic Saturday match. Kicking off the league weekend, Spurs will be returning to Wembley with their defeat at Watford ringing in the ears. The 4-1 battering of Liverpool last year at this very ground will be fresh in the memory: can the Reds finally put that crushing defeat to the back of their minds?

Tottenham Hotspur News


Not much to worry about for Spurs; the majority of their squad should be fit. Knowing that they could temporarily go top with a big win, Spurs will be keen to show Liverpool that their supposed new defensive solidity is a myth.

However, they’ll have worries themselves, with four goals conceded so far meaning that they can’t rely on keeping an electric Liverpool attack quiet. Expect Spurs to go with solidity and running power, hoping they can beat the frantic LFC press.

Liverpool News


The Reds are without Dejan Lovren for this one, meaning that Joe Gomez should get a chance to impress once again. The Reds will have most of their first team out there, though, and should feel very confident of getting something from their trip to London.

Despite their overall solidity, though, Liverpool are known to struggle against Harry Kane: he’s got a rich habit of banging in goals against the Reds. If they can keep him quiet, though, it’ll give the Liverpool attack ample space to run into.

Verdict


We can see this being a tight but very enjoyable match, with the result likely etched on who can counter the best. With Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino yet to start firing, this could be the ideal time to rediscover their form from last season. If we had to pick a winner, we’d suggest Liverpool have the greater confidence – though Spurs will feel they can easily get at a Liverpool defence that isn’t as solid as it’s looked early this season.


Sunday, 9 September 2018

Celebrity Big Brother 2018 Winner - Ryan Thomas

Once again Celebrity Big Brother demonstrates that it's much more watchable than its non celebrity counterpart. There's just something about the contrast between how famous people present themselves in a professional capacity, and the inevitable peep behind that veneer we see during their stint in the Big Brother house that sparks intrigue. Who can forget that famous Leo Sayer meltdown, or George Galloway's  "Would you like me to be the cat?"strangeness.

This year hasn't really had any such iconic aspects, though Jermaine Pennant's inability to remember that he's actually married and Roxanne Pallet's 'Punchgate' certainly ensured that there were somewhat borderline bizarre elements in this series. The latter incident has very likely also put ex Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas in the frame to win the series, in a year where there has been no real fixed narrative to follow as such or 'Us vs Them' teams splintering off. For the most part this bunch have taken it easy on the alcohol (I had to laugh at Nicks's comment about Sarah Harding in a previous Celebrity Big Brother season: "She was bollocksed every night. Proper bollocksed") and have followed a more sensible approach to proceedings. The series was in fact thrown a curve ball before it had even got started on account that Stormy Daniels was a no show.

Early doors, one potential hand grenade, Natalie Nunn, was taken out by another,  Hardeep, in the very first nomination. That possibly changed the dynamic of the series. Hardeep became known as 'The Destroyer' for his ability to knock out whoever he was up against. This ended though when he was voted out by the public in the final public vote prior to the final, while up against Sally 'I've got a gift' Morgan. Very few housemates have actually been up for the public vote this year due to the Hardeep vs X dynamic, so that has made evaluating their popularity somewhat tricky.

So again, being that the only remaining housemate with an 'event' occurring in the house to define their stay is Ryan, this has seemingly elevated his chance of winning quite considerably. He transformed from 'Mr Laugh at Anything' to a serious contender overnight. Bookmakers currently have him at 4/9 favourite to win CBB 2018.

Beyond that it comes down to character and again some of this bunch blend into the mix a bit too well.  Ben Jardine had a lot of character to him, and he was unlucky to bow out the way that he did. Of those remaining, characters like Gaby Allen have kept a super low profile, there's 'Nice Nick' too and so on. Aside from Ryan though, the only other housemate to have made an impression and appear more down to earth than her outside status, an admirable trait, is Kirstie Alley. She's 2-1 with bookmakers.

Winners of Celebrity Big Brother are often unpredictable. Sure there have been years where a younger guy has won people over, but with previous winners like Gary Busey, Coleen Nolan, Jim Davidson and Alex Reid it's clearly not only teenage girls watching! I do feel that if Kirstie Alley had maybe been a little less guarded she might have walked this, because she has lot of winning aspects to her character, she's funny, friendly and has some great Hollywood anecdotes. That being said, Ryan brings the fun factor in spades and has come back from being wronged in a pretty low way. On top of that, winning would mean an awful lot to him and his career prospects. He has the biggest potential story arc. I think all of these things will factor in as people cast their votes in the final, and therefore I can see him being the 2018 Celebrity Big Brother champion.

It's possibly bad form to already announce Ryan Thomas as the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2018 in the post title, but yesterday Psychic Sally alerted Ryan that she'd had a vision of him winning the show. I mean, with her track record (losing the housemates letters! Oops!) who could disagree? 'She's got a gift' don't you know! :-D.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

UEFA Nations League - England vs Spain

The UEFA Nations League competition has the distinction of being so brand spanking new that I only just realised that England are even playing tonight! That's partly on occupational hazard when these events are shuffled quietly away onto Sky Sports. If we do well maybe we'll have the treat of a pay per view final. I jest!

Of all of the opponents England could face in their opening game, Spain will surely be a tricky prospect, but buoyed from their World Cup success, England will be looking to keep the positive momentum going. With that in mind the team hasn't dramatically changed with an 'if it ain't broke' thought likely in Gareth Southgate's mind.

Still, there are some changes. Players such as Luke Shaw, Joe Gomez (sadly ruled out of the World Cup due to injury) and goalkeeper Jack Butland will be looking to make an impact, and Marcus Rashford, who perhaps deserved more time in this year's World Cup, has yet another opportunity to shine and stake a claim to a more permanent starting place in the England team. Kane will be present of course and hoping to impress. Gareth Southgate will clearly be watching the game with one eye on the future big competitions, and how best to move forward with this youthful team.

We want to test ourselves against the very best," said Southgate.

Spain don't currently hold this same consistency After going through three coaches in three months, they will be looking to steady themselves and get on an even keel. With the likes of  David Silva, Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué now out of the picture, the old faces are few and far between (Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets) and so Spain will be looking for new blood to forge a successful path going forward. - Marcos Alonso, Alvaro Morata, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Cesar Azpilicueta will all play a role.

This sets the stage for an interesting matchup. Historically England's record against Spain is poor, but the easy ride England had in the World Cup doesn't take away from the fact that the team has gelled well of late when compared to Spain's fortunes. But then are the very top teams ever more than a few games from finding their way again? The odds reflect the uncertainty with England at 17/10 to win and Spain 19/10. The draw is 11/5. My head says Spain will find a way, but my heart says England. The curse of the patriot, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the first to have a patriotic punt either! That said on this occasion, I think I'll just sit out placing a bet and enjoy the game!

Recent Form:

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Thoroughbred Horse

 
That's a lot of effort to go to for a bad horse joke, but don't worry, it's unlikely to be the last! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Liverpool vs Brighton - 25th August


After overcoming two acid test games to start the season, Liverpool have a third test of their credentials to come on Saturday: a game against Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls will travel to Merseyside fresh from beating their eternal rivals, Manchester United, 3-2 at home.

Can the Reds continue their early season promise? Can Brighton hold off the Red onslaught?

Liverpool News


Not much to worry about for Liverpool: expect the same team to start as the previous two games. The effervescent trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will shine, but it’s the midfield trio of Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Naby Keita who are impressing the most. Paring well with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, Liverpool look as exciting as they have done in many years.

At the back, expect Virgil van Dijk to continue his blossoming partnership with Joe Gomez: Dejan Lovren, watch out!

Brighton News


Meanwhile, Brighton arrive at Anfield with one win and one loss. They played poorly on their opening day before absolutely outclassing United over 90 minutes. The 3-2 scoreline flatters the Red Devils; Brighton were outstanding.

Expect a similar line-up here, with Dale Stephens and Davy Propper offering zeal in the middle and Pascal Gross offering the attacking impetus from the middle three. Up top, Glenn Murray will need plenty of overlapping runs from Solly March and Anthony Knockaert; though full-backs Martin Montoya and Bernardo will need plenty of cover to handle the Reds pace out-wide.

Match Prediction


This could be a tricky one for Liverpool. Brighton are a good team, and will provide more of a threat than perhaps expected. However, we can see Liverpool edging this one: though, with the pressure already on after two games, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle Brighton.


Monday, 6 August 2018

12th august - Arsenal vs Manchester City


As far as opening fixtures can go for a title defence, a trip to Arsenal is about as harsh as it can get. However, with the reigning champions in good form in the pre-season and Arsenal still trying to find their form and shape, can Pep Guardiola get the Unai Emery era off to a similar start to the Wenger era?

Arsenal News

While some of their new signings like Lucas Torreira might not come in for this one, this is a new look Arsenal side. Some new signings but a crucially different style of play is immediately apparent, and it shines through in just about every area of the Gunners side.

We can expect them to line up with something approaching a similar line-up, as Emery gets his new signings in the door. An interesting switch, though, is that of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a more wide position; he’s playing off the left mostly, which should add a bit of a change to the Arsenal attacking dynamic – and crucially free of Alexandre Lacazette.

City News

Nothing really to say on the City line-up; like many of the top sides, they will be limited in numbers for the early weeks. With young Brazilian Douglas Luiz set to get a work permit, he could come in to this game without much issue: he already looks like a prime Pep player.

New signing Riyad Mahrez might play, too, and will provide City with further depth in the attacking areas across the season.

Verdict

An away win feels likely – Emery has done a good so far at Arsenal, but the shift needed to overcome their present limitations won’t come overnight. Unless City start like so many champions defending their crown, we cannot see Arsenal being able to stop a hugely determined City side on the opening day.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

World Cup Final: France vs Croatia

As a showpiece FIFA World Cup Final awaits us, 1998 winners France will take on first-time finalists Croatia. For just 4m people to reach the tournament final is incredible: can they go all the way and defeat a France side who feel like the best team here in the tournament?


France News
There’s not much in the way of injury worries: Blaise Matuidi and Djibril Sidibe are both doubts but should make it. This will be interesting, though, as Matuidi has been essential to their growth and development as a side as the tournament has progressed. With Croatia so strong out wide, losing his prowess would be a major blow.

Expect Ngolo Kante to be key to victory here, if France are to do it. We think that France will be looking to really push forward their momentum, trying to pin back Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric.


Croatia News

The worrying news that Ivvan Strinic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic might all be a risk for the Final is a major worry for the Croatians. They will be tired after three consecutive runs of extra time becoming the only side in history to reach the final by doing so and will be looking to try and patch up their team in time for kick-off.



Injuries to key players for Croatia is much worse than it is for France, purely for depth reasons. If Perisic was to miss out, then Sime Vrsaljko’ fitness would become even more important.


Verdict


Too close to call, too hard to say: we can see a France win, though. They aren’t very good to watch outside of the Argentina game, but should have the talent to make it count in a one-off game like this Croatia, though, can feel proud of a run that will live long in the memory.

Friday, 13 July 2018

World Cup Third Place Match: Belgium vs England

After a fantastic run to the Semi-Finals, the dream is over for both England and for Belgium. It’s a major blow to come so close yet be so far, but the Third Place Play-Off tie should really help to settle the podium finish for both sides here in Russia.


Belgium News
Expect the Belgians to rest a few of their players. Romelu Lukaku knows he needs a hat-trick to get the Golden Boot, which would be highly unlikely at this point. Eden Hazard also knows that another good performance would put him alongside Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric for the Golden Ball.

With a long season to come, though, don’t expect many of the major starters to play here. we expect people like Axel Witsel and Vincent Kompany to play, but key player like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Toby Alderweireld will likely sit this one out.


England News
For the Three Lions, the chance exists to give a few of the other players a chance. Expect to see Danny Rose and Trent Alexander-Arnold come in on the flanks, with the back three maintaining a semblance of consistency.

Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane will likely play up-top, too, with Eric Dier replacing Jordan Henderson in the midfield. Jesse Lingard will get the chance to finish off a strong campaign, while Fabian Delph will get to sign off on what has been a very good year for him personally with another game here.


Verdict
While it does not really matter, we expect an English win. Belgium came to the tournament wanting to win it, and will feel gutted by their loss. England just wanted to have a good time, and can go home knowing they managed to achieve that and then some: they will be far more likely to be up for it here.

Gareth Southgate



A picture of England manager Gareth Southgate hugging his wife after England's 2-1 loss to Croatia. For their faults England gave us a good - and unexpected - run in the 2018 Russia World Cup. It's a youthful team and what a journey they've been on. A missed opportunity, yes, but we certainly now have a good foundation on which to build. Let's stay positive!

Monday, 9 July 2018

England vs Croatia: Three Lion's Roar Reaches Fever Pitch

After a tremendous win over Sweden where England were rarely troubled, The Three Lions turn their attention to Croatia. The Semi Finals awaits for a nation that has not been there since 1990: can they go one better?

One expert summed up this tie as being ‘a little like Ten Henman avoiding Pete Sampras, and only having to beat Goran Ivanisevic. Can one home favourite avoid the sporting mistakes of another?


England News
England are blessed to reach this stage of a tournament with minimal to no injury worries. The fact that they came through the Sweden tie without much effort means they should be much fresher than the Croats. Croatia have had to overcome extra time and penalties twice: don’t discount the impact that will have on fitness levels.

We might see England try to counter the qualities in space of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic with the help of Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier. While not the most effective pairs offensively (though Henderson is much-improved), they provide a screen that would severely hurt Croatia going forward.


Croatia News
Croatia, meanwhile, are going to be sweating over the fitness of Sime Vrsaljko. The Atletico Madrid full-back took a knock in the Quarter-Final win over Russia, and might struggle to make it here. That would be a huge blow, with his deputy nowhere near the same standard.

Croatia will need to find space for a third midfielder, though: Modric and Rakitic are outstanding but cannot be the screen. They were poor against Russia until they were freed up with Marcelo Brozovic’ entry into the game.


Verdict
England will make their first Final since 1966. They’ll do it with a lot of effort and no shortage of luck, no doubt, but they’ll get there: the force of fate feels overwhelming.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

World Cup: Sweden v England

While England fans were ready to start talking about how they had diffused the Colombia game, then Yerry Mina scored. While previous English sides would have crumbled, they persevered and won via penalty shootout. Can they do the same against a determined Sweden side they have a challenging record against?


Sweden News
The Swedes are going to come into this tie with a real belief they can do something special. While full-back Emil Krafth will likely have a few question marks on his performance after a challenging tournament so far, he’s ably assisted by Viktor Claesson on the right-hand side.

Emil Forsberg, the player Sweden rely upon most for creativity, will likely come in off the left-hand side once again for the Swedes. He poses an interesting choice, and should play a major role in any creativity that Sweden can show.


England News
England will likely return to their 3-5-2 again, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek added back into the middle of the pitch. He’s a talented midfielder, and should be a fine pick for rampaging through the lines. With an extra man over the Swedes in the middle, expect England to have most of the ball.

Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen will pose challenges for the England defence, so it will be interesting to see how they handle that physical presence up-front.


Verdict
It’s a hard game to call. England have been pretty stop-start at the tournament so far, with Harry Kane the leading light in just about every match alongside Kieran Trippier. If England can keep the performance level of the Colombia first-half a little longer, they should win here.

Sweden are a good side, but they are limited in terms of athleticism and pace. Without much pace, getting out will be tough: making an England win feel more likely.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

World Cup: England vs Columbia

The Three Lions have been given a pretty decent route to a potential FIFA World Cup Semi-Final. With Colombia a strong yet beatable side and either Sweden or Switzerland waiting afterward, it’s easy to see why excitement is building. Will the classically simplistic viewpoint pay off for once for England, though?


England News
The Belgium game can be mitigated in large to the team selection. With so many changes made, it was expected that the game would be tight. This game, though, will see no such risks taken. Harry Kane will obviously return to the top, taking on a former (but still top quality) great in Falcao in the Colombia forward line.

If England can use their pace on the break to get in behind the Colombian defence, and help keep the rapid Jose Izquierdo and Juan Cuadrado pinned back, England could really do something here.


Colombia News
The South Americans are reliant more or less on the fitness of star man James Rodriguez. While Colombia are a fine team, he is their creative talisman and their demeanour transforms with him being on the pitch.

Given his fitness issues, it’s likely he won’t be at 100% if he plays. That could harm Colombia, and may make their hopes of progressing to the Quarter Finals that bit harder to get to. With Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez so strong in defence, though, Colombia know they can keep it tight, play on the break and hope Falcao can pinch a winner.


Verdict
 
England to go through but not by a huge amount. Colombia are a good team, and any ideas of this being an easy route might be questioned here. However, an early goal against for Colombia might test their resolve, and would be England best chance to avoid being another surprise knockout.

Monday, 25 June 2018

World Cup: England v Belgium

After a record win at the FIFA World Cup, whisper it quietly but it might just be coming home. The quality of football was impressive, though naturally it’s better to play it cool than to be too excited. Panama are among the three worst sides in Russia, but what a confidence a 6-1 win and a 2-1 last minute victory could give England.

Can Belgium burst the bubble?


England News
Not a huge deal of news coming out of the England camp after the Panama win other than buoyancy. 5-goal Harry Kane will surely start, though we could see Gareth Southgate give a few of his more expendable squad members a shift here.
For England, the aim is always the same: get a result. With such a high-flying Belgian midfield, we’ll likely see Jordan Henderson start again after a tremendous game against Panama. We’ll also likely see the impressive Jesse Lingard keep his place in the middle of the pitch, after the #7 was so impressive against Panama including one of the goals of the tournament so far.




Belgium News
The Red Devils handed out a shellacking of their own, taking a Tunisia side who looked much better than Panama to the cleaners. Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard both scored two, though the former is a doubt for this one.

We expect Belgium to push for first place in the group, even with all the ideas that finishing second might actually be the better option for either of these sides.


Verdict
A hard fought but extremely enjoyable draw awaits, we think. This will be a good tie, though both teams will naturally hold back a little with their Knockout place secured. Expect this to be free flowing and exciting, with both sides creating plenty of scoring chances.


Sunday, 24 June 2018

World Cup - It's never too early for a Pint

england game - pint


This guy looked halfway wrecked hours prior to the start of the England vs Panama, Russia 2018 game. I dread to think what's happened to him as a result of the 6-1 win :). Cheers!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

World Cup 2018: Tunisia v England

After so long waiting to put right the errors of 2014, England can finally make a mark on the FIFA World Cup once again. They arrive at the tournament loaded with pace, athleticism and ingenuity. Add in a nice blend of youth and a real desire to make up for lost time for some of the more experienced players, and this is an England side to be very excited by. Can they do anything here with Tunisia, though?

On paper, it sounds like an easy game. England fans will know, though, that’s not often the case.


Tunisia News
With star man Youssef Msakni out for the long-term, Tunisia have turned their eyes elsewhere for inspiration. In Naim Sliti and Anice Badri, they have two options who might be able to offer something else instead. In midfield, we expect to see Ferjani Sassi and Ellyes Skhiri start together, with Saif-Eddine Khaoui in behind Fakhreddine Youssef.

In defence, we expect to see Syam Ben Youssef and Yassoune Meriah line up together for the Tunisians in what is a solid, strong line-up.


England News
With the rumour that Jordan Henderson will get the nod ahead of Erci Dier, we might see a Hendrson and Dele Alli midfield partnership. Jesse Lingard is expected to play in behind Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, with the two forward offering a decent tandem partnership up top.

Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier will be expected to provide the width, with Kyle Walker playing as a third center-back at present for club and country. John Stones and Harry Maguire will likely take the other two defensive spots.

Jack Butland looks set to sit out for Jordan Pickford in goals.


Verdict

Hard one to call. Tunisia, on paper, are the kind of team that England should dismiss. They are, however, a decent outfit and any complacency will be strongly punished. We expect an England win, but for the Three Lions to make extra hard work of it dont they always?

Monday, 4 June 2018

Britain's Got Talent 2018 Final - Voting Percentages

Well that was certainly an entertaining final and Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, a deserving winner. Britain's Got Talent must be a brutal competition to come second in, considering it's the difference between £250,000 and zilch, but as with all of these shows there has to be a winner.

Performing early has historically been something of a kiss of death on BGT, whereas appearing later in the running order provides a boost. With that in mind as there wasn't much separating first and second place (Lost Voice Guy - 21%, Robert White 17.2%) it makes me wonder who might have come out on top had their performance order been reversed. But still both performed well and either would've been a deserving winner. Brave performances from both in their own way.

B Positive Choir certainly highlighted a worthy cause, but they finished bottom and in many ways I'd have rather the likeable and cheeky Mandy Muden had been given the wild card entry.

The Giang Brothers once again impressed with an unbelievable physical display. DVJ and Micky P Kerr perhaps gave their best prior to the final, as this wasn't the best performance for either. It must be difficult for acts to judge really though, as getting through each round is far from a formality and so you have to give your best.

An entertaining series all in all. The full Britain's Got Talent voting results are below!


FINAL


Lost Voice Guy- 21.0%

Robert White - 17.2%

Donchez Dacres - 11.2%

Gruffydd Wyn - 11.2%

Giang Brothers - 9.5%

DVJ - 7.1%

The D-Day Darlings - 7.1%

Jack & Tim - 6.2%

Calum Courtney - 3.5%

Micky P Kerr - 3.3%

B Positive Choir - 2.7%

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Britain's Got Talent Final 2018

Britain's Got Talent certainly builds up a head of steam as it approaches the final and the need to whittle down the contestants becomes a priority. On Friday for instance we lost Father Ray Kelly, a favourite of many, and the 'naughty but nice' Mandy Muden, perhaps one of the few genuinely funny comedians to have graced the BGT stage. It's pretty much the luck of the draw at the semi finals, where you can either breeze through or struggle depending on who you happen to be up against. There is of course still the 'wild card' to consider though, and so it's not over 'til it's over.



But as it stands the finalists are:

Singers


D-Day Darlings - Performers of Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again'. Where the patriotic vote might find a home.

Calum Courtney -  10years old. Sang Michael Jackson's Who's Lovin You

Gruffydd Wyn Roberts -  A 22 year old singer from Wales

Tim and Jack Goodacre - The father and son singing duo

Donchez Dacres - An entertaining 60 year old singer. This year's 'fun/ light relief' act. Winner of heat (somehow!)


Comedy


Micky P Kerr -  Singing comedian and all round nice guy! Winner of his heat.

Lost Voice Guy - Inventive taped act by comedian with cerebral palsy Lee Ridley. Winner of his heat.
 
Robert White - musical comedian with Aspergers.  Didn't hold back when addressing the judges! Winner of his heat.


Dance and Gymnastic


The Giang Brothers - Acrobats showcasing their amazing body strength and balance.


DVJ (Diversity Juniors) - Young dance troupe. The brainchild of Ashley Banjo from Diversity. Winners of their heat.


My initial thought is that it's a wide open year, with a collection of genuinely good and very diverse acts, so betting wise that makes it tricky.

I honestly think that the sheer number of singers compared to other acts, makes it more difficult for any of them to individually get enough of the vote, so I'm tempted to rule them out. Interestingly, no singer, other than humour based singing acts, won any of the semis.

Of the other acts, I don't think Micky P Kerr has enough to win, Lost Voice Guy is definitely in with a shot, and with Robert White  it's dependent on what he brings in the final. He goes close to the knuckle, so if he gets it right on the night, he's in with a shot.

As for the other acts, dance act Diversity Juniors clearly have good pedigree and so that works in their favour. Giang brothers were amazing, but didn't win their semi (Micky P Kerr beat them) so that doesn't bode well for winning the final.

So I'd say it's out of DVJ, Robert White and Lost Voice Guy. As the only dance act, and with proven form with the grown up Diversity, I'm going to predict DVJ as winners at 7/2. Enjoy the show!

Monday, 14 May 2018

UEFA Europa League Final - Marseille vs Atletico Madrid

As far as European finals go, you’d find hard to get a better supported final than the 2018 UEFA Europa League. Both Olympique Marseille and Atletico Madrid are among the two best supported sides in Europe, with a rich fan culture and an incredible winning heritage. Atleti are the major favourites for the final, but can l’OM spring a surprise?

Marseille News

There’s a natural sense of worry around the Marseille camp as they head for Lyon. There’s fears over the fitness of Rolando, the Portuguese defender who got them here in the first place. Kostas Mitroglou will likely miss out, too.

This means that Marseille will be looking to Morgan Sanson, Luiz Gustavo, Dmitri Payet and Florian Thauvin to sparkle in the Final. Lucas Ocampos, though, has sprung into rich form and could be vital for the French side to win their first European trophy in over twenty years.

Atletico Madrid News

Atletico are likely to be without Jose Maria Gimenez and Vitolo for the final, meanwhile. The electric form of Saul Niguez, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa have played a huge role in getting them to the final, though, and they’ll be fit and firing for the tie in Lyon.

The fact that Gimenez is likely out, though, is a big blow. Stefan Savic will likely fill in, but he’s not at the same level as the Uruguayan, and Atletico will be worse off for his absence. Juanfran and Filipe Luis will likely play at full-back for Los Colchoneros.

Verdict

We think that Atletico will do it – but only just. Marseille arrive with the tide of history and the excitement of winning a new trophy; Atletico have won two of these in the last decade alone. We would suggest that their experience and more dogged nature will win out over the youthful effervescence of Marseille. Don’t discount the French side, though; their special support could really help to take them to a victory that’ll go down in the annals of history. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Tony Bellew vs David Haye , 5th May

The heavyweight division has been action packed of late, and with the likes on Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and even Tyson Fury making a comeback, it's no wonder David Haye wants one more bash at the big time.

Arguably he's not a heavyweight to begin with (but neither is Bellow) and he does seem to struggle against big fighters. Often though it coincides with injury, so it's hard to really know quite what he could manage to pull off if he stayed in one piece. Of course talk of injury brings us neatly back to the first Bellow vs Haye fight, since a badly ruptured achilles tendon midway through the fight put pay to any hopes of a Haye win. That said, he did put up a strong performance considering, which may bode well for the rematch if he avoids injury this time.

The betting odds for Bellow vs Haye are pretty much along the lines of what I'd expect. Love him or hate him, Haye hasn't done an awful lot wrong in his career when he's injury free, and if the heart is still in it (that's a significant unknown - as he does like the limelight and celebrity circuit as much as the boxing ring), it's hard to question the fact that he pack a punch and has good movement. He's currently 4/9 to win. There's no doubt he's taken on A-list fighters, but he's not had many opportunities to fight in recent years.

Bellow will no doubt be hungry for the victory too. Annoyed at the opinion of some that their previous encounter wasn't a true victory for him, he'll want to prove that he was put an uninjured Haye on the canvas and end his career for good. There's cerainly no ring rust, and at 2-1 the bookmakers probably have this one about right. It's a tough one to call and there's not enough value in a straight win for me. In the last fight Bellow was able to take some of Haye's best punches. With time out of the ring, I can see a similar situation occuring again and the idea that the longer the fight goes on, the better it looks for Bellow.

If you don't fancy the exorbitant £19.95 cost to watch the fight, nip down to your local boozer, as they're bound to have it on. Then you can either drown your sorrows or celebrate after the fight depending on who you're rooting for!


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Europa League - Atlético Madrid vs Arsenal - 3rd May

While it might seem harsh, it feels like Thursday night will be the defining factor in the reign of Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger. With his final run of games closing in, he needs to get a positive result in one of the most challenging stadia to come to in world football. Can he?

Home News

Atletico will be without full-back Sime Vrsaljko, as he was sent off in the Emirates first leg within ten minutes. Other than that, though, the usual back-up, Juanfran, is out of this tie. He’ll be swapped out for Thomas Partey, who had a fantastic game in London in an unfamiliar position.
Diego Costa played just over an hour in the weekend game against Alaves, and should start here. Given his previous in games against Arsenal, we can imagine that the Arsenal back line will be a little more cautious this time around.

Away News

Meanwhile, Arsenal will be without the in-form Mohamed Elneny, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will miss out due to being cup-tied. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey will likely both start, with Alexandre Lacazette up top. Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny will be tasked with keeping Costa and Antoine Griezmann quiet in the Wanda Metropolitano.
Other than that, though, Wenger has more or less a full complement to pick from. With his final season to be defined by whether or not he can reach the UEFA Europa League Final, we fully expect to see the Gunners come out flying in Madrid.

Verdict

It's all to play for due to being 1-1 on aggregate, but despite their ability to impress when nobody expects them to, we cannot see Arsenal putting out Atletico at present. They are resilient at home and, with eleven men, should be much more of a threat than they were in London. With Jan Oblak in such ludicrous form, too, we cannot see Atletico being outscored here and thus we feel that an Arsenal semi final exit could be on the cards – sorry, Arsene.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

(Royal) Baby On Board!

The odds for Kate and Williams, seventh.. sorry third baby (or 'Another Porker!' as Kay Burley calls it!) are still available online. The gist seems to be hat there's not a dead cert as such, so clearly the couple have been keeping tight lipped about it.








 These are the current betting odds:

Alexander -  3-1
Louis - 5-1
Arhur - 3-1
James - 6-1
Albert - 6-1
Philip - 12-1
Henry - 16-1
Edward - 20-1


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Premier League - Watford vs Crystal Palace - 21st April

This weekend, the relegation battle takes another interesting turn as Watford play host to Crystal Palace. Can the Hornets take out the Eagles? With the away side’ woes, we wouldn’t bet on a performance that Watford fans have waited a little too long to receive. 
 
Home News

With one win in six, including four loses out of five, Watford need a good result – fast. The drop-off in performance of the likes of Richarlison, Will Hughes, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Adrian Mariappa has been alarming. Coincided with the poor form of the likes of Roberto Pereyra and Troy Deeney, and its’ easy to see why Hornets fans have valid concerns.

They come into this one with a banged-up squad, too. The likes of Gerard Deulofeu will miss out, as will Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley. For Watford, any kind of positive result would be accepted given their middling form. 
 
Away News

Meanwhile, Palace are flying after their 3-2 win in the derby with Brighton and Hove Albion. With Christian Benteke finally fit again, it’s the loss of the likes of Bakary Sako and Scott Dann that has hurt them the most.

At the moment, it would be hard to call the Palace team bar one thing: when Wilfried Zaha is fit, they play much better. They’ve lost all ten games this season that the Ivorian has not started, which has major complications for them if he misses any of the run-in.

If Zaha starts, don’t expect anything other than another impressive performance. 
 
Verdict

We expect Watford to get something here. They look like a side that needs the season to end, but Palace are poor away from home. We would expect more from the home side, and a performance against a Palace side with a phobia of away days would be a good place to start.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Champions League - Manchester City vs Liverpool

This Tuesday, Liverpool travel to the Etihad Stadium in a bid to reach the Semi-Finals of the UEFA Champions League. They arrive in Manchester set to play a City side that simply looks to have come off the rails a touch.

Following the 3-0 reverse at Anfield, City endured a damaging 3-2 loss at home to rivals Manchester United. Being 2-0 up at half time, the Citizens watched the dream of sealing the title at home to United blow up in their face. Conceding 6 in 2 games is very unlike City; can they recover here in style?

Home News

For the home side, the return of star striker Sergio Aguero can only be a good thing. He came on (and should have had a penalty) in the Manchester Derby, and loves a goal against the Reds.
Meanwhile, Kevin de Bruyne and Kyle Walker will return to the line-up. Vincent Kompany may miss out, though, meaning that John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi will likely line-up in the defence for City. 
 
Away News

For the Reds, the midfield is looking bare. Emre Can is almost certainly out and Jordan Henderson misses out with suspension. This means that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner will likely play a third game in six days.
Mohamed Salah should make the game, giving Liverpool attacking impetus alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold should return to the full-back slots. The Reds got out of Goodison Park with a 0-0 playing a shadow side in Saturday’ Merseyside Derby, which should bode well for their fitness going into a crucial away tie. 
 
Verdict

We reckon City will win this one – but not enough to get through to the Semi-finals. Liverpool have looked more resolute in recent times, and if Mohamed Salah can make the game then we can see the Reds getting a crucial away goal. Just one away goal means City need 5, after all. City to win, Liverpool to progress.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Champions League - Liverpool vs Manchester City

This midweek, arguably the biggest English-based Champions League clash in a decade will take place. Far bigger than most, the two most exciting sides in England – Liverpool and Manchester City – will go to war. With a promise of goals and bombastic football, who will come out on top at Anfield?

Liverpool News

The Reds host City knowing they have great form in this kind of experience. They are in good form, with the loss of Joe Gomez a minor blow. Young full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been a target in recent matches, but a resurgent second half at Selhust Park from the full-back helped him to come out the other side unscathed.
The Reds have the firepower to beat anyone, and have history on their side: the 4-3 epic at Anfield being a true sign of where Liverpool can reach. This midweek will go some way to show if that was a fluke or a victory that was a sign of things to come. 
 
Manchester City News

The Citizens stroll into Anfield knowing they have a league to win in-between both matches. With Manchester United set to visit, it’s going to be very exciting to see how City react to a season-defining week.
With few injury or form worries, though, they couldn’t turn up in better condition. With the form of David Silva and Leroy Sane making up for a minor Kevin de Bruyne lilt, they should arrive at Anfield feeling confident of a big result. 
 
Verdict

We’re going to be ambitious – 3-3. This has the makings of an all-time classic, but we just cannot see Liverpool staying tight enough at the back to win this one. City are lethal, as are the Reds, but they are slightly less outrageous at the back. This tie will likely be decided by slim margins, and that defensive prowess (and lack of for the Reds) could play a major role.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Everton vs Manchester City - 31/3

As the Premier League finally returns this weekend, we’ve got a fantastic game in store as Everton play host to Manchester City. With City in such a commanding lead of the title, and Everton in desperate need of some extra points to secure survival, this match should be one to watch for sure.

Everton News

Everton are presently without Idrissa Gueye in the midfield, while fellow midfield engine Tom Davies will likely miss out also. Ashley Williams is out with suspension, though some may argue that, on present form, that’s a help rather than a hindrance.
The loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson pre-international break will be a major blow for the home side, too, joining Eliaquim Mangala and Mason Holgate as absentees.

City News

Meanwhile, City turn up here with a bit of an injury problem themselves. Sergio Aguero is likely to miss out, though will likely be fit for midweek. Fabian Delph has been out for a while, and may return at one stage though not likely as a starter.
With Benjamin Mendy finally in training, too, the full-back should offer an opportunity for Pep Guardiola to get him some much-needed gametime. City come into this one in good form, though, and should have more than enough to see off a brittle Everton side who look like they want the season to end. 

Verdict

We reckon this will be an easy one for the away side. Everton aren’t great, and often struggle against sides that play with tempo and quick passing. While they have improved slightly under Sam Allardyce, their improvement does not suggest they’ve got enough in their locker to take anything here.

City’ main problem will be their awkward record against Everton historically, and the fact the game falls just before a massive match-up with Liverpool in the Champions League.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Are things looking (im)peachy for Trump?



We live in wild times politically and so it's always interesting to keep one eye on the betting odds, to get a measure of what those who like a flutter make of such strange times. The more quirky bookmakers out there offer both serious and novel political bets, especially around the US elections, since it's 'mad season' over there right now.

But novel bets aside (since I'm not sure that PP's 'Donald Trump to buy Sports Direct in 2018'' represents good value!) the one bet I've had my eye on is 'Will Trump complete his 1st term in office? ' Right now the odds are YES 3/10 and NO 2/1 . Interestingly for a good time the odds were basically even money for both outcomes and in some ways with the midterms still to come and the investigation into Trump and co yet to be concluded there's still a fair amount of scope for Trump leaving office. That said his own party and the 'alternative fact' portion of the public may well decide to prop him up come what may. As always, time proves everything.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2018: 4 Contenders for the Stayers’ Hurdle


A wide-open looking renewal of the 3m Stayers’ Hurdle is one of the feature races on day three of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, taking place on Thursday, 15 March.
The ill-fated 2017 winner Nichols Canyon suffered a fatal fall over the Christmas period in Ireland, so we are guaranteed a new staying hurdle champion at Cheltenham this time around.
Those horses who chased him home at last year’s Festival, Lil Rockerfeller and Unowhatimeanharry haven’t been any sort of form over the trip since. It makes for a lively betting market, so we take a look at four of the main contenders.

Supasundae (100/30)

The first of two winners at last year’s Festival at a prominent price is Coral Cup victor Supasundae. Trained in Ireland by Jessica Harrington, has won just one of his four starts since. That came last time out 2m in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown’s inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in February.
It was a superb bit of race placing by connections of Supasundae, who is yet to win a 3m contest in two previous attempts but is made favourite for the Stayers with Williamhill. Will it be third time lucky or could a re-opposing rival confirm the form of last season’s Liverpool Hurdle from the 2017 Aintree Grand National meeting?

Sam Spinner (9/2)

Northern trained winners at the Cheltenham Festival are a rare enough thing these days, but their best chance of one this year comes here through rapid Jedd O’Keefe improver Sam Spinner. The six-year-old absolutely bolted up in a hot Grade 3 handicap at Haydock on Betfair Chase day back in November.
Sam Spinner then continued his rapid progress with success at the highest level in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas. That is a key trial for the Stayers, but it’s the fact that conditions at Cheltenham could be soft ground that are the biggest plus for this young horse.

Yanworth (5/1)


 
Connections sent last season’s Champion Hurdle favourite Yanworth, who flopped at the Festival, over fences at first for this campaign, but he is now back to tackling the smaller obstacles. Owner JP McManus faced a similar decision with Buveur D’Air last season and the return to hurdling was a masterstroke.
It could also prove the same with the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who defeated Supasundae over the Stayers’ trip at Aintree as mentioned above. That form gives the eight-year-old claims of a successful winning return to this sphere and like Sam Spinner he is unbeaten over 3m. McManus’ retained rider Barry Geraghty, meanwhile, has chosen Yanworth over Unowhatimeanharry.

Penhill (8/1)

Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins may have lost Nichols Canyon, but has 2017 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle hero Penhill in his ranks. This seven-year-old is completely unexposed in open company over 3m because he hasn’t raced since last year’s Festival.
Just how race fit Mullins can have got Penhill for this stern test remains to be seen. Punters may recall the superb feat of training the master of Closutton pulled off with Arctic Fire 12 months ago, however, who returned after more than 400 days off the track to win the County Hurdle. Penhill, meanwhile, has received support in the Stayers’ betting after his odds were cut from 10/1.