Saturday, 23 March 2019

Grand National 2019 Outsiders


Tiger Roll, the winner of the Grand National in 2018, was imperious when winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year running. Few would deny that, despite his diminutive stature, the nine-year-old is a worthy favourite to become the first horse since Red Rum, in the Seventies, to win back-to-back Nationals. However, it is worth remembering that, after taking a 6-length lead at the Elbow last year, he was ultimately all out to hold Pleasant Company by a head. Tiger Roll is 9lb higher in the weights this time around and, admirable though he is, odds of 6/1 look short enough.


By contrast, Pleasant Company, who finished ninth behind One For Arthur in 2017 before just being touched off last year, is available as a 33/1 outsider. He, too, is 6lb higher in the weights this time around and is following a similar pattern to last year insofar as he has shown very little in two starts so far this season. Of course, he is trained by Willie Mullins, so he could bounce back, especially if the going at Aintree comes up soft or heavy but, as an 11-year-old, he hardly has time of his side.

One For Arthur was sidelined with injury for most of the season 2017/2018, but returned to action in December and is by no means impossibly treated off 6lb higher mark. That said, he unseated rider on his seasonal debut on the Mildmay Course at Aintree and did so again at Haydock in January, so has some questions to answer in the jumping department. He also reportedly heads to Aintree without another preparatory run, so his fitness needs to be taken on trust, but the 33/1 outsider odds available looks fair enough.

There are other outsiders in the running too. Owner Trevor Hemmings, who’s already won the Grand National three times, with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds, holds a strong hand with Vintage Clouds – who looks a solid 16/1 chance – and, at longer odds, his more recent acquisition, Lake View Lad, whom he bought from previous connections last October. Both horses ran an excellent trial for the Grand National when second and third, respectively, in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and, at 25/1, Lake View Lad arguably looks the pick of this pair of outsiders at Aintree.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Burnley vs Leicester - Saturday 16th March


Coming into the season, both of these sides were expected to fight for the top eight to ten places in the league. Having both been two of these more high-performing provincial outfits since they came into the Premier League, this always has the feel of a game between two sides who step on each other’s toes. With Burnley in a bit of a relegation dogfight and Leicester City swinging in purgatory, nothing to play for of any great note, can the home side overcome their more progressive opponent?

Burnley News


For the Clarets, it’s hard to see where the chances are going to come from. With the concession of at least two goals in their last three games – and three league losses on the spin – Burnley are going nowhere. They are in a relegation dogfight nobody could have seen coming, and it’s not through bad luck or anything of the sort.

They allow more shots than most in the league, and presently in a poor league position. With a defence no longer as solid as it once was, it’s hard to see where the Turf Moore side will get goals, either. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood have 16 between them, a decent return, but is it enough?

Leicester News


The Foxes have endured an odd start under Brendan Rodgers. A win the night he was appointed took place, followed by a late loss and then a convincing weekend win. With the improving form of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy, it’s easy to see why Foxes fans are confident of staying in a good position.

For the Midlands outfit, it all comes down to consistency. With nothing of great consequence to play for, can they turn up when it maters?

Verdict


Score draw. New Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers has often struggled with games like Burnley away, and his side – outside of impressing their new coach – having nothing to play for. Burnley, meanwhile, are fighting for their lives: we can see that being enough to edge a fractious, tight contest.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Premier League: Everton vs Liverpool


After a frenetic 96th minute winner in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield, we’re set to do it all again. With five of the last six games at Goodison ending as draws, though – the only winner being a late Sadio Mane winner – it’s not likely to be a classic game. These ties are rarely of a high quality, but the intensity and importance of the game speaks for itself. Who will come out on top, though?

Everton News


Interestingly, Everton coach Marco Silva did not hold back when he spoke of how Liverpool celebrated at Anfield – proclaiming it like a ‘World Cup’ goal. However, there’s an obvious fire about the reaction. While Leighton Baines and Yerry Mina will miss out here, we’ll see the introduction of the likes of Kurt Zouma, though Phil Jagielka might have to play.

Andre Gomes is likely to play again, though Morgan Schneiderlin gave a fine performance in the 3-0 win against Cardiff City.

Liverpool News


The Reds have a few issues, with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren still out. Roberto Firmino is still a doubt, too, so derby winner Origi could play again. We might see Jordan Henderson return, too, given his propensity to play in the big games. Naby Keita might sit this one out on the bench, at least from the start, having struggled to make much of an impact at Liverpool so far.

For Liverpool, it’s all about getting the result: if they can find a bit more solidity and get Sadio Mane on the ball, they should be fine.

Verdict


We can see Liverpool winning this one – though not by much. The club has struggled at Goodison in recent times, but they should have enough grit to see this one out and get a good result in one of their hardest matches of the season.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Goodbye Flu, Hello Festivals! - Cheltenham and 2019 Grand National

With equine flu concerns 'hopefully' now in the rear view mirror, we can start
to look forward to a feast of top class horse racing action in the form of the
much loved Cheltenham Festival and of course the jewel in the crown of British
racing, the Aintree Grand National.

The Cheltenham Festival runs this year from Tuesday 12th to Friday 15th March and
will no doubt once again draw in huge crowds on course as well as millions watching on their TVs at home. Last year the Gold Cup Day alone attracted a sell out crowd of over 70,000 and a total over all Festival record attendance of 262,637. Native River won the Gold Cup itself, after a stunning two year period which saw the thoroughbred also win the Hennessy Gold Cup, Welsh Grand National and Denman Chase. He's currently second favourite to win the 2019 race, so the fairytale hasn't quite ended yet! Other races to look out for include the Queen Mothers Champion Chase, which is held on Ladies Day (Altior will be looking to retain his title) and the Stayers' Hurdle. The main races will all be shown on ITV1 so there is no excuse for not tuning in!

Just three weeks after being spoilt by the Cheltenham Festival, we have the one and only Grand National. If there's one race everyone knows about, regardless of their level of interest in the sport of horse racing it's the National. The main race itself is part of a three day Festival of racing that begins on 4th April, is followed by Ladies day on the 5th, with the main event taking place on the 6th of the month.

The 2019 Grand National is bound to rival the excitement that was the 2018 race, where 10-1 Tiger Roll, ridden by Davy Russell, beat out Pleasant Company in a photo-finish. Astonishingly that was the 171st time the race had been held, which just goes to show how steeped in history the race is. Thankfully all 38 horses finished in good health too.

The 2019 Grand National is again sponsored by Randox Health and sees Tiger Roll out to defend his title. This adds an exciting dynamic to the race as no horse has had back to back wins since Red Rum in the 1970s. It would be the cherry on the cake for the Gordon Elliot trained thoroughbred, as he's already amassed prize money of over £800,000. It's early days in the Grand National betting odds, with Tiger Rolls and his main rivals Elegant Escape, Vintage Clouds, Warriors Tale and Rock the Kasbah all coming in at around the 20-1 mark. The 2019 Grand National certainly has the makings of a race you can't afford to miss, and so the eyes of the nation will no doubt be watching yet more Grand National history unfold. The Grand National starts at 5:15pm, April 6th  on ITV1. Don't miss it!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Leicester vs Manchester United


After putting a massive spanner in the works of the Premier League title race, Leicester City take on another of the traditional North-West giants. Manchester United come to town having finally dropped points under Ole Gunnar Soljskaer. With Leicester not finding any consistency so far this season, though, can we really expect them to do the business against a United side who look utterly liberated compared to their previously high-strung selves?

Leicester City News


Harry Maguire is a lucky boy – he should be missing from this game through either injury or suspension. Lucky not to be sent off at Anfied, his goal into the Kop end will make sure he has few friends on Merseyside.

They’ll likely see him return alongside Wes Morgan, with a debut for young midfielder Youri Tielemans likely to come as well. Ricardo Pereira might play at full-back, though it would be no shock to see him drop out in favor of Danny Simpson, with the Portuguese moving up the pitch a bit.

Manchester United News


Injuries to the likes of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial means that they might be an immediate doubt for this match, with a groin injury likely to keep out the French midfielder. Other injuries could include the missing Marouane Fellaini and also Chris Smalling.

Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera could come back into the side, with Alexis Sanchez also likely to be fit once again. The Red Devils finally dropped points, though came back from 2-0 down, so should feel good coming into this one.

Verdict


United win. Leicester are a bit of a big game team, but they lack any kind of real consistency. It’s hard to see them replicating the same kind of performance that they gave at Anfield so soon after, and United are on the crest of a wave (draw aside) making it hard to go against them too much at present.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur


When Maurizio Sarri first strolled into Stamford Bridge, the expectation was one of a slow season followed by success next year. However, the fast start to the season – including some very impressive results against Liverpool – means the wheels have come off a touch. Recent results have been poor to say the least, with the latest resulting in Sarri slating the attitude of his entire squad.

It’s safe to say, then, that things aren’t exactly rose behind the scenes. With a good performance needed to overturn a first leg loss against Tottenham Hotspur, then, can Chelsea make their case to win the 2019 League Cup?

Chelsea News


Not much to worry about for the Blues, in truth. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will again miss out, while Eden Hazard is expected to continue to play up front despite not really suiting the style of play of the team.

Callum Hudson-Odoi – now being linked with a move up north to Liverpool – is another interesting option. He could start from the right-hand side in a bid to convince him to stick around and take part in the second half of the season with Chelsea.

Tottenham News


For Spurs, things are a touch trickier. Star duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli are both 100% ruled out, while Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko are likely to miss out, too. Lucas Moura is out, and Son Heung-Min is now at the Asian Cup with South Korea.

Expect match-winner Harry Winks to get a game, as well as the rejuvenated Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

Verdict


Expect this to be a good game, with both sides having enough form and injury worries to create a really intense, back-and-forth match-up. We can see Spurs really going for it, but Chelsea overcoming them: the injuries to Spurs means a long night could likely go against them, just purely on squad depth.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Manchester City vs Liverpool


As far as title deciders go in 2018-19, this one might come a bit early. Make no mistake, though: this game is going to be a major deciding factor in where our title goes. Manchester City host Liverpool knowing they have a seven point deficit to make up. With this being the last league game between the two sides, a win could be decisive: a win for City changes the mood entirely, a win for Liverpool offers them a 10-point lead over City.

City News


Kevin de Bruyne has endured a challenging season so far with fitness issues, and could potentially miss out here again. Fabian Delph is out too, with a suspension, and Ilkay Gundogan will likely miss out. Good news, though, is that John Stones and Leroy Sane, a perpetual thorn in the side of Liverpool, will be back.

We can expect to see Oleksandr Zinchenko play again, though he was pretty poor against Southampton. A potential game against the Liverpool attacking trio might see Aymeric Laporte moved out to full-back. Kyle Walker could return, but poor form means he might sit this one out.

Liverpool News


For Liverpool, there’s not much to worry about in terms of injury. The challenge comes from how far they go for it. For example, should they start with Xherdan Shaqiri? Or Naby Keita? Jordan Henderson or Georginio Wijnaldum?

The options are expansive and it does offer the Reds a few key changes to make. Throw in the fact that their key defensive quarter of Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are all fit (so far) and they should be in fine fettle here in terms of squad fitness.

Verdict


This could be the game of the season. We suggest that City are the favorites given their incredible home form, but Liverpool have a good record against City under Klopp, so it should be a fantastic match either way. If we had to call a score, we’d go for 2-2.