Friday, May 6, 2011

Title Showdown

 Today Friday, got 2 good racing recommendations out of 3; Elnawin won its race at Ascot at 13/2 for an excellent return while Royal Liaison came out Placed 3rd at Hamilton. Fine Style, on the other hand, could only come out 3rd while I expected it to win.

Here we go for the week-end's predictions; Sunday sees the deciding game in the Premier League where the winner takes all at Old Trafford. Man Utd host Chelsea and on paper, are favourites to beat their rivals and all but secure the title.

Alex Ferguson came up with a masterstroke this week by fielding a weakened Utd side to beat Schalke and qualify for the Champions League final. This allowed most of his first team to rest for the showdown with Chelsea. A bold decision that would have been classified suicidal if Schalke had caused an upset; but upset there was none. So will a rested Utd full team be able to overcome a Chelsea team that will be not only apt to defend its title but also look for revenge after its ouster at the hands of the Red Devils in the Champions League? I think so. Utd are excellent at home and are in good form. Their confidence will be boosted by their recent qualification to the European final. Even Chelsea fans will recognize that their team has been on the lucky end of the referees' decisions in their past games and should actually be more than 3 points adrift. Drogba and co won't go without a fight but it will be a daunting task of them to go win at Old Trafford. They did it last year, but the circumstances were different. Unless they get the rub of the referee-ing again, which is not impossible, Chelsea will not win on Sunday, in my opinion. I recommend a draw-no-bet on Man Utd.

In the other EPL games, I see the Tottenham v/s Blackpool game being high-scoring, and the hosts should prevail. I recommend them as an outright win. I like Bolton's chances against Sunderland as the Black Cats are having a lot of injury problems at the meantime. Bolton is a recommended draw-no-bet. Fulham hosts Liverpool and to me, the Cottagers are the big value bet of the week-end. They are difficult to deal with on home soil, and Liverpool do have trouble on the road. So I see Fulham as a draw-no-bet is an excellent-return value punt.

In Spain, Barcelona play after Madrid's visit to Sevilla, so it's useless to speculate on the outcome at the Nou Camp as much of it will depend on how things turn out at the Sanchez Pizjuan. I like Valencia's chances at home to Real Sociedad. The latter beat Barcelona in fortuitous circumstances last week, and will welcome any precious points on the road until the end of the season. Valencia are on see-saw form of late but should have too much firepower for the visitors. I recommend the hosts as draw-no-bet.

In Scotland, the tables have been turned upside down with the defeat of Celtic at the hands of Inverness in mid-week. The advantage is in the Rangers camp, who host Hearts at Ibrox. The visitors are a decent team by Scottish league standards and did beat Rangers earlier this year. However with the momentum on their side, I cannot see Walter Smith's side losing this encounter at home. I recommend them as draw-no-bet.

Finally two things of note in racing. First, St Nicholas Abbey returned to winning ways today by trouncing a second-grade field at Chester. If this run confirms his return to this old self, then we're in for a treat as far as the rest of the campaign at Classic distances go. An Arc or King George with Workforce, So You Think, St Nick Abbey, Planteur could be very interesting...

Second and last, the Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday. This year's edition looks like a competitive affair with no colt really standing out. Most of the field goes there with good form behind them and it seems that tactics and the weather could play a big part in the outcome. Without going through any recommendation, I think this race might benefit a closer and Nehro seems to be a very good one. I will also take a particular look at Master of the Hounds, the European representative from the Ballydoyle operation. The odds are stacked against it as it's never run on dirt before. However, who knows, anything seems possible in this year's race.

Win: Tottenham
Draw-no-bet: Man Utd, Bolton, Fulham, Valencia, Rangers.

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