Friday, February 25, 2011

Week-end Preview

On Thursday, Man City won its Europa league game but had a couple of disappointing results at Meydan. In the first race, Hunting Tower was most unlucky not to get the passage in the straight orelse it would have easily been in the Place money. Soumillon tried to sneak on the inside to no avail, just like his first ride on River Jetez a few weeks back. I mentioned in my preview that stablemate Wonder Lawn was a danger, and at 10/1 duly won the race. Mahbooba came out second in the UAE Oaks. The winner, Khawla, from Godolphin stable, was most impressive, as she won after months of layoff. She has caught my eye with her pedigree as her great-grandma is Urban Sea, and her sire is Cape Cross. So she is bred on extremely similar lines to Sea the Stars! So she's definitely one to follow when she tackles the big English races in a few months time.

There are some good value punts coming up this week-end. In the Premier League, I like Aston Villa's chances against Blackburn. I recommend a draw-no-bet on the Villains who will view this match as a must-win to ease their relegation fears.I also like Man Utd's chances as they visit Wigan. The Latics have never snatched a point from the Red Devils since they have entered the top flight. It will be a chance to see if the Red Devils are starting to huff and puff after below-par performances against Crawley and Marseille. I don't think they will lose this game, so recommend them as draw-no-bet as well. In the Carling Cup final, it's hard to go against Arsenal even though they look like they will be missing Walcott and Fabregas. It looks like they will have too much fire-power for Birmingham. I don't know if the Gunners will need extra-time to win the game, but I fancy their chances of lifting the trophy at the end. So a Final Win for the Gunners is recommended.

In Spain, big tests await Barcelona and Real Madrid. Everyone is talking of a Barcelona mini-slump, and winning convincingly at Mallorca will put this theory to rest. I think they will either win or draw, so a draw-no-bet on the visitors is the recommendation. Real Madrd travel to Deportivo La Coruna who are not the force they used to be in recent years. Real Madrid as draw-no-bet looks safe and is recommended.

CC Final win: Arsenal
Draw-no-bet: Aston Villa, Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thursday Football and Racing

Arsenal won, but with relief against a determined Stoke side. Wenger will however be happy to have bagged 3 important points, and hope that the injuries to Fabregas and Walcott are only minor. In the Champions League, Man Utd drew at Marseille in a relatively boring match. It remains to be seen whether not getting that vital away goal will be detrimental for the return leg.

On Thursday, I can see Man City see off Aris Salonika at home in the Europa League. They played a goalless draw in Greece and City will be keen to use their home advantage to go through. A draw-no-bet on City is recommended.

Thursday is racing at Meydan. I was reading Mike de Kock's comments that much of his success this year lies into his proprietary mix feed he gives to his horses. Mix feed or not, it was obvious from the start that his string of horses this year was really the best he's brought to Dubai, and that his successes were going to continue if not improve. He'll be saddling and expecting a win of Mahbooba in the UAE Oaks. A Win on this Galileo filly is recommended. In the first race, Hunting Tower looks prime for a repeat win, and the danger could be his own stablemate Wonder Lawn. A Place on Hunting Tower is recommended.

Win: Mahbooba
Place: Hunting Tower
Draw-no-bet: Man City

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chance for Arsenal to close the gap

Real Madrid came out of Lyon with an invaluable away goal which could prove decisive for the second leg. It looks Chelsea are certain to go through after winning at Copenhagen. On Wednesday, Man Utd travel to Marseille for a tricky encounter. The Red Devils are being hit with a sort of mini injury-crisis with the likes of Ferdinand and Giggs missing the trip, and Ji-Sung Park and Anderson potentially out for 3-4 weeks and more. They still have enough firepower to score away goals, and they will be relieved to hear that the French team will be missing a couple of key players as well. No recommendations on that one as you just cannot know what kind of team will show up with the injury toll.

For punting, I like Arsenal's chances against Stoke. The Gunners are in good form, and will be keen not to miss bagging 3 points at home and reduce the gap with Man Utd at the top. Van Persie will be favourite to be on-target again, but there are other Gunners that are doing well enough presently to be on the score sheet notably Arshavin. A draw-no-bet on Arsenal is recommended.

Draw-no-bet: Arsenal

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seven out of seven

Fantastic week-end indeed with all 7 recommendations winning; Barcelona, Real Madrid, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Napoli, Lazio and Inter all won. Both my form in football and racing seem to be good, long may it continue!

There's nothing much that stood out from the European leagues this week-end. In Spain, Barcelona labored to beat Athletico Bilbao. Whether Barcelona are lacking some cutting edge at the moment is open to debate. They still control the ball and the tempo of all their games. Their percentage of possession is still staggering. It's just they haven't been rampant in finding the net in their last 3 games as they usually do. In my opinion, their lack of goalscoring is just a temporary thing. If not, then Real Madrid will surely try to exploit any opportunity to close the gap. 

Speaking of Madrid, the fact that Mourinho is stating that his team is back in form, is something to take note of. On Tuesday, they visit Lyon in their Champions League match-up. I don't recall Mourinho ever losing to french opposition but Lyon has had Madrid's number in past encounters. I expect a cautionary approach from the Spanish team, who will make sure to avoid defeat so as to decide the tie at the Bernabeu. Lyon is certainly not as strong as in previous seasons, but they can still inflict damage. The game will be more of a mental challenge for Madrid to overcome a stubborn team that has stopped their progress in the last few years of the competition. If you really fancy a punt, then a draw-no-bet on Madrid seems the more reasonable way to go, but to me the game is really too close to call.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Week-end Football Preview

River Jetez won and Here To Win came out placed for 3rd. So all 3 recommendations for the Friday card at Meydan, won. For those who are not aware, the Dubai Carnival races are shown live free on the Daily Racing Form website (the U.S equivalent of the Racing Post), at

The FA Cup takes centre-stage this week-end in England. There are bound to be surprises as usual, but I don't think non-leaguers Crawley can spring one at Old Trafford. It just won't happen. I think I mentioned earlier that I don't like analyzing FA Cup matches because league form does not play a substantial role in there, and it's hard to formulate an informed analysis. Good thing that the other leagues have something on offer.

In Spain, Barcelona cannot afford any more missteps for fear of shifting any momentum back to Real Madrid. They host Athletic Bilbao and should be winning this game. I expect Real Madrd to do the same against Levante, so I recommend both leaders as Wins. I also like Valencia and Villareal to do well at home, and are fancied as draw-no-bets against average Sporting Gijon and Malaga.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund is another good draw-no-bet against St Pauli, who won in midweek against Hamburg. Mainz host Bayern Munich, and the hosts are really laboring currently. This might be a good opportunity for Bayern to climb the table, and I fancy a draw-no-bet for the visitors.

In Italy, Inter should have too much firepower at home to Cagliari. Leonardo's men went to win in Fiorentina and because of their midweek exertions, a draw-no-bet on them is a safer bet. I like Lazio's chances as it hosts Bari as well as Napoli's chances against Catania. I like both of the hosts as draw-no-bet punts.

Win: Barcelona, Madrid
Draw-no-bet: Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Inter, Napoli, Lazio

Thursday, February 17, 2011

High expectations for River Jetez

A winning Place recommendation at Southwell today as Jack's Revenge came out second.

Tomorrow Friday is the second leg of a double-header at Meydan. I have 2 de Kock horses to follow very closely; the first obvious one is River Jetez who was unlucky not to win her last race. If she does not encounter any hard luck in the race, she will definitely be in the first 3. In fact, this race represents a great winning opportunity for her. Since she's better than odds-on, I recommend her for a Win and Place. The other horse I like is Here To Win, which was a disappointing beaten favourite her last time out. Tomorrow will be her first foray on the all-weather surface, but she seems to be doing really well on it according to the trainer. If she runs to her true potential, the competition should be within her grasp. Mike de Kock seems bullish on her as well, so I recommend her as a Place.

Win: River Jetez
Place: River Jetez, Here To Win

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Southwell preview

I watched Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1 but the away goal might be decisive for Barcelona to go through to the next round. At mid-way point of the second-half before Arsenal scored, Barcelona was so dominant that they were toying with the young Gunners. It was men against boys really and the one goal score was flattering to the Gunners at that stage, I thought. Then, the Spaniards went through a crazy 10-minute spell whereby they conceded those 2 goals. Was it arrogance or over-confidence? This will make for an interesting second leg, and based on what I saw, Arsenal will have a mountain to climb to go get a result at the Nou Camp.

Tomorrow is racing day at Meydan, but surprisingly the racing card looks really dull compared to the previous ones in terms of quality. The races seem highly competitive though, and I think best to wait for the Friday card where I am waiting the return of River Jetez with much anticipation. I'll get back to her race tomorrow.

Instead of Meydan, let's focus on the Southwell race card, and I like Jack's revenge in the first race. The son of Footstepsinthesand easily won on at this course and distance 9 days ago, and he looks good for a repeat. I think the main danger will come from Ace Master, himself a course winner at 7 furlongs a couple of days ago. A Place bet on Jack's Revenge is the recommendation.

Place: Jack's Revenge

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tottenham did it, can Arsenal?

The knock-out stages of the Champions League just got under-way today, and Tottenham went to get an amazing result at the San Siro. Spurs are supposed to be on a learning mission in their first foray in the European Cup, and yet they are accumulating wins and still standing. Harry Redknapp is a magician really! He can really turn a decent team into a really good one. Probably his off-field problems will hamper his chances of becoming England manager one day, but he sure seems like he would have been a good one. You can bet that the Spurs brass hopes he never gets that job, as they will go downhill from there-on, just like West Ham and Portsmouth did.

Tomorrow is a big day for the Gunners, who face Barcelona at the Emirates stadium. There's been a lot of talking from the Arsenal camp leading to the match about them "matching-up" to Barcelona's level. It will be a massive challenge for them to backup these assertions. They are in good form, with Van Persie on a goal scoring run, but can they deliver on the big stage?  I am hoping for some good attacking football but it could be that Wenger decides that closing the game gives his team the best chance to advance. In my opinion, if Barcelona play near their best, they will be able to exploit the many lapses in the Arsenal defence. I think in the end, Barcelona will prevail or snatch a vital draw, but there's really no point speculating on the outcome. I will watch it mainly from the pure footballing side and hope for a repeat of the match they played last year.

I can't find anything of value to recommend either in football or horse racing on Wednesday. Punt safe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Phenomenon

It is with mixed feelings that I took the news of Brazilian Ronaldo's end to his career. I wish he could play on a few more years, trying to get some of his old game back, and mesmerize fans with his dazzling runs and goals. I suppose that would be really too much asking for a 34-year old who admitted his body just couldn't match his mental desire to stay in the game. Just seeing a snapshot of him now is enough to see that he is right. End of a truly great Phenomenon.

For, at his best, Ronaldo was in my opinion, the best of the best of all strikers. His technique, dribbling, and explosive runs have never been matched by any other forward, and his finishing was there with the best. It is with those images of him taking on defender after defender at full-speed towards goal that I remember most, while statistic-aware fans might think more in terms of World Player of the Year accolades and World Cup goal-scoring records; the speed of Thierry Henry, the power of Drobga, the finishing of Van Nistelrooy, and the finesse of Van Basten all incorporated into one. That was O Phenomeno.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That Goal!

Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid won, Liverpool drew for a voided punt, and the 2 Win recommendations (Barcelona and PSG) both ended in miserable draws; I suppose the warning signs for those 2 losing punts were there, and a more judicious prediction would have been to have them as draw-no-bet.

In La Liga, Real cut the gap at the top to 5 points. They still have a mountain to climb to reach Barcelona though, and it will be interesting to see how involvement in the Champions League affect the league form of both teams.

The results in the Premier League drew the most interest. By losing at Old Trafford, the title hopes are more or less over for Man City. But it's THE goal that is still on everyone's minds. Rooney's bicycle kick was just a thing of beauty. The execution of a bicycle kick is the most spectacular in football, and I think every young footballer dreams of performing one that wins a game in front of a buoyant crowd. Just like Rooney did. I still have engraved in my mind the Van Basten one in his early days at Ajax. Every 4 years during the World Cup, the networks are always debating the greatest goal ever scored during the tournament. Maradona's solo run against England in Mexico 86 is very often cited The one. For me, the greatest goal I have ever seen in my life (not just the World Cup) is the semi-bicycleta of Mexico's Negrete against Bulgaria during the same Mexico 86. I still marvel at the technicality and execution of the goal as I watch it on youtube. The angle, the body position, and the many other options that the Mexican could have used other than the bicycleta... it seemed he had it all figured out at 100 mph before his perfect execution. Just out-of-this-world, as the commentator was saying.

Nothing of interest for Monday, but lots of interesting Champions League football resuming this week. And if there's any value in racing, I'll post it. Thanks for staying tuned.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week-end football preview

We are on a roll!! Raihana and Golden Sword won and Musir came out second, all paid with Place bets. The de Kocks are on fire, and rewards beckon as long as their right horses are picked. This week-end is full of interesting matches and here are my picks:

As I am writing this, the derby match in Manchester is already under way with the score in favour of the hosts from a Nani goal as we near half-time. It's too close to call this game but if City were to win, it will turn the league upside down. We are not there yet, and it's currently advantage Man Utd. I like Liverpool and Arsenal chances as they play at home. Liverpool are playing with renewed confidence lately and should see off Wigan at Anfield if they can continue their rich vein of form. Arsenal host Wolves; Mc Carthy's men are no push-overs when they are on the road as they play disciplined, counter-attacking football. They will have some spring in their boots having beaten Man Utd last week. But Arsenal are loaded with firepower, and I think they will either draw or win this game. So Liverpool and Arsenal are recommended as draw-no-bets in the Premier League.

In La Liga, I like Barcelona as a Win at Sporting Gijon. Unless the international friendlies took a toll on the Barcelona players, they should be able to edge this. So I like them as Win. Real Madrid travel to Espanol in a tricky encounter. Espanol are a tough team to beat at home, but they are missing players through injury for this one. I recommend Real Madrid as draw-no-bet.

In Germany, I recommend Bayern Munich as a draw-no-bet at home against Hoffenheim. With the return of Robben, Bayern should be able to win this, but because Hoffenheim seem masters of draw matches, a draw outcome is not that far-fetched.

In France, I like PSG's chances at home against third-from-bottom Lens. The capital team will try to get back on track after their defeat at third-place Rennes last week, and playing a struggling Lens at home seems the best remedy possible. I recommend them as Win.

Win: Barcelona, PSG
Draw-no-bet: Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mike de Kock in force

I was mentioning that a Place bet on Monster Crunchie at better than odds-on, would be worth it for punters looking for a bet. The Deep Impact filly came out third and was available at around 3/2 Place last time I checked, so hopefully there were some of you that latched onto it. I could not outright recommend her as a new-comer, but it gives me confidence that my analysis was correct. I tell you, these Deep Impacts are worth watching, just like the Sea the Stars progenies will be in a few years time.

To continue on the racing streak, tomorrow is Meydan day. At the risk of being repetitive, it seems to be another fruitful meeting for the de Kock stable. It will just be a matter of picking the right horses for the stable. "Musir is flying and should go close" according to the trainer. These kinds of bullish comments often mean the expectation is very high. I was not surprised when Mike said that Bold Silvano was his best ever World Cup hope after the devastating win by the son of Silvano last week. But I was a little surprise he did not say that both Bold Silvano and Musir were his best hopes. Anyway, Musir is a classy horse who's only disadvantage on Thursday will be to get rid of cobwebs after a 325-day absence. I recommend him as a Place bet.

Out of other de Kock runners, I like classy filly Raihana to also Place. It will be interesting how she measures with Godolphin's Kingsfort, who I rate very highly. I also like Zanzamar; my only concern is that Richard Hills has a tendency to mess up on short favourites, in my opinion and experience. Golden Sword had a great last race which seems to show that he was back to his best, so is recommended as a Place in a race that seems winnable.

Place: Musir, Raihana, Golden Sword

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Deep Impact runs

Anytime I hear or see a reference to Deep Impact, the Japanese wonder horse, I take note. No matter how rare that is. Obviously it's been a few years since he left the tracks but his sons and daughters are making themselves heard in the Land of the Rising Sun (and hopefully around the world soon). Tomorrow, one of his few progenies to train in the UK, makes her debut in the first race at Lingfield. Monster Munchie is trained by promising trainer W. Knight and owned by Andrew Black. I wish I could get some glimpse of Black's opinions regarding the filly on his blog, but it seems he's been off to Mount Kilimanjaro! The filly is regally-bred being out of a Group 1 winner in Muncie, so in my opinion, she would not need to be at her best to be among the first 3. The distance will suit her best, and I can see her charging towards home (a little bit like her dad) as the rest of the field starts to falter. There are some decent types running in that race, so I can't recommend her outright on her first run. If her odds for Place are better than evens (which they seem to be currently), then it might make sense to have a hopeful punt at her. It's definitely not a guaranteed punt or a recommendation; the only guarantee here is that I'll have a watchful eye on her performance.

International football friendlies are a bore...

There's not much on the cards in either racing or football today. I really do not like international football friendlies because the games are un-puntable. In racing at Lingfield 15:15, I'll have a look at Striking the Wind, a Mark Johnson newcomer by Mr Greeley. On paper, his breeding suggests he should overcome this weak field. But I can't recommend him on his first run. You never know how green or inexperienced the first-time runners are. This will be for my knowledge-base really. Punt safe!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super week-end results.

A fantastic week-end really, with 5 winning recommendations, plus one voided, out of the 6 that I gave out. Barcelona, Madrid, Man City, Napoli and Marseille all won, while Villa drew with Fulham for a voided bet.

This was a week-end of glorious missed opportunities for some of the major pretenders in the Premier League. How sick must Arsenal be after their 4-4 draw at Newcastle? I can't recall a team coming back from 4 goals previously. Man Utd had a chance to widen the gap at the top, and it miserably failed at Wolves. Chelsea's slim hopes of retaining its title are all but over after another defeat, this time to a resurgent Liverpool team. Next week-end's Manchester derby looks pivotal and we shall get to it as it nears.

I don't know if there is anything surer in sports than punting on Barcelona these days. They brushed aside Athletico Madrid with another hat-trick from Messi. Real Madrid expectedly kept pace by beating Real Sociedad with a fine brace from Ronaldo. The pace at which these 2 players are scoring is just phenomenal. I am trying to recall if the great midfielders of the last 30 years had as good a strike rate as them. Certainly not any wingers that I can remember. Zidane scored many important goals but not at this pace. The 2 names that come closest to my mind are Maradona and Zico, both of whom probably did not score with such persistency; but to be fair, they also did not have a fabulous supporting cast as those two.

I can't see anything of value for Monday, but will keep you posted on anything that catches the eye this week. Have a good week.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week-end European football preview

Baileys Agincourt was a disappointing 4th, beaten in the last couple of strides for 3rd place. There are not many things more frustrating than the horse you're favoring for a Place comes out short in 4th. This week-end is filled with interesting football matches and I have selected a few that I find value in following.

In England, I like Aston Villa's chances as they entertain Fulham. The arrival of Bent and the return of Ashley Young from injury have definitely had a positive impact on the Villains lately. This Villa team is certainly too good for the drop and I can see them improve and climb the table during the second half of the season. Fulham is a good team under Mark Hughes but they've lacked a cutting edge of late. They suffered before beating a diminished Newcastle team last week (a win that was predicted here) and Villa will have lots of ammunition at home to at least get a point out of this game. Aston Villa as a draw-no-bet is recommended.

Man City host West Brom in what should be a straight win for the Citizens. If Mancini's men can't beat Albion at home, then they can forget about winning the title. This will be an occasion for Dzeko or Tevez to increase their goal tally. A Win on Man City is recommended.

In Serie A, second-place Napoli is hosting third-from-bottom club Cesena. Napoli lost in its travel to an improving Chievo side last week, but they have good form at home and will keen to reduce the gap with leaders Milan. A draw-no-bet on Napoli is the recommendation.

In La Liga, Barcelona should win against an Athletico Madrid side that alters the good and the bad. Barcelona are in top form at the moment and had their stars rested in the mid-week Cup match against Almeira. So they should create plenty of chances against a side that has lost its last 2 away matches and that relies mainly on Forlan and Aguero for scoring. Real Madrid should also see out an average Real Sociedad side. Simply put, Mourinho's men have rack up maximum points from now on to have a realistic chance to catch the runaway leaders. So, both Madrid and Barcelona are recommended as Wins.

In France, I like Marseilles' chances against bottom-club Arles-Avignon. The hosts have been misfiring lately in the Championnat, and this game should give Deschamps the opportunity to right the ship. I can't see them lose this game, but because they are not on-song yet, a draw-no-bet on Marseilles is the recommendation.

Win: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man City
Draw-no-bet: Aston Villa, Napoli, Marseilles

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday Lingfield Preview

Bold Silvano won at Meydan today and although I am not one to jump to conclusions, I must say we might very well have seen the future Dubai World Cup winner. He won with authority against a talented field on his first outing on the Tapeta surface. And he was obviously not at his peak fitness. If he stays injury-free and moves forward as expected, he will take all the beating on World Cup day. The other horse that caught the eye in the same race was Interaction, the Argentinian star. He had a horrible trip but still managed to stay on for 3rd place. I don't think he would have won the race but that run will have brought him on enormously, and if he runs to his true potential, he is one to follow during the Carnival.

Staying in racing, I like Baileys Agincourt in the 14.20 Lingfield card on Friday. Mark Johnston's horses are on fire, and this is a weak contest for the son of Beat Hollow. A repeat of his last run should see him out in the first finishing 3. So a Place on Baileys Agincourt is recommended.

Place: Baileys Agincourt

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bold run from Bold Silvano?

Fulham and Real Madrid won their matches for a perfect one-two punch. Now we have confirmation of a dream final between Barcelona and Madrid. We'll see how to make of it in due time. But I watched a "supposedly-weakened" Barcelona team tear away Almeira. You wouldn't think that team was resting a few of the first-team players; their fringe players can fit in straight in their awesome football.

Tomorrow is racing day at Meydan. By all accounts the meeting last week was very disappointing as both of the de Kock horses I relied on failed to fire.

This week, Bold Silvano, the much-touted son of Silvano makes his seasonal debut. According to his trainer, he's 85% ready and a "big run" is expected. Translate this into a Win is expected. But wait a minute, there are other big guns in there as well; Last year's Dubai World Cup favourite Gitano Hernando also makes his come-back as he prepares for the big race again. So does Interaction, the South American star who went to Europe in a failed bid to run in the Arc last year. Al Shemali and Crowded House are of Group level as well. A great race with 5 Group 1 winners. I will still stick with Bold Silvano as there are only positive vibes from the training yard regarding his form and fitness. I believe the best from South Africa can match the best the world has to offer in Dubai. Bold Silvano is recommended to Place in the first 3.

Place: Bold Silvano

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wednesday EPL and Copa del Rey previews

Man Utd prevailed in its potentially tricky encounter with Aston Villa. Rooney's goal during the first minute changed the match as Villa were forced to alter any plan to defend. Arsenal and Chelsea also prevailed and so it will be a case of  Man City and Tottenham having to keep up with the pace in their matches on Wednesday.

Fulham hosts Newcastle and I think Mark Hughes men are a good value at draw-no-bet. Fulham are a tough team at home, and they are well disciplined under Hughes just like they were under Hodgson. Newcastle are 35 million pounds richer with the sale of Andy Carroll, but it will be tougher for them with no replacement for their best player. Going back to the sale, my opinion is Liverpool overpaid significantly for the England international. He's talented and full of potential, a monster in the air, but 35-million is a lot for someone still unproven and with only 1 cap. Fulham is a draw-no-bet recommendation.

In the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid already has one foot in the final after its away win at Sevilla. I can't see Mourinho's men losing the return tie at the Bernabeu. I don't buy this talk of fatigue settling in the Madrid camp. They just came back from winter break! The players will be eager to atone for their miserable loss at Osasuna and book their ticket to the final. Madrid as draw-no-bet looks safe to me.

Draw-no-bet: Fulham, Real Madrid

Tuesday Premier League preview

The Premier League fixture list on Tuesday looks pretty tricky with some very even match-ups on paper. I like Man Utd's chances as it hosts Aston Villa. Last season, Villa ended a 26-year winless run at Old Trafford after having come very close in the past few years. Who does not remember the enthralling game when Macheda scored the winner in extra-time a couple of years back? The heartbeat of Villa is Ashley Young and a big part will be how Man Utd can contain his runs his runs down the flanks. Without being spectacular, the Red Devils are racking up important points and are still unbeaten. The return of Rio Ferdinand will bring the important stability at the back that they much rely on. Berbatov is on fire and will be a main danger to score; a draw-no-bet on Man Utd is recommended.

Chelsea travel to Sunderland with new 50-million pound man Torres. There is no doubt in my mind that, without taking into account the price tag itself, the Spaniard is a massive reinforcement for Chelsea. Once he gets going into the Ancelotti system, he will resume being the scoring machine that he used to be. The question for Chelsea is how the trade will affect Drogba and Anelka. Does the new recruit mean one of them is surplus to requirements? After all, both are past their peaks. I believe the recruitment of Torres won't help Chelsea's bid to retain their title since they've given too much ground during their infamous December run. Whether he will make an impact in the Champions League for the Blues remains to be seen. As for the game against Sunderland, it really can go either way, so I'm not recommending on that one.

Draw-no-bet: Man Utd