Friday, September 30, 2022

EPL 22/23 - Week 8


Arsenal v Tottenham - Home

Bournemouth v Brentford - Away

Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Home

Fulham v Newcastle - Draw

Liverpool v Brighton - Home

Southampton v Everton - Home

West Ham v Wolves - Draw

Man City v Man Utd - Home

Leeds v Aston Villa - Away

Leicester v Nott Forest - Away

The jury is out on Graham Potter's move to Chelsea. For all the goodwill the ex-Brighton manager has accumulated in the past good years with the Seagulls, he has to convince his critics that he can manage a big team. I mean, the risks are enormous for Chelsea, dumping a proven UCL winner in Tuchel and replacing with an upcoming manager that has won nothing. Time will tell and Potter will definitely need time to settle in, so at this point, it might be worth going against Chelsea as well as Brighton, who will have to adapt to their new manager.

With that said, I think Crystal Palace look good value against visiting Chelsea. The Eagles have shown good form since the start of the season and Vieira seems to have some good managerial aptitudes. The hosts are certainly not easy to break down and they are bound to have chances against a team working on a new system. Looks worth going with an outright Crystal Palace win.

I like the way Southampton has risen from a difficult start as they are a young team playing some catching football. Obviously, results do matter and the Saints will do with some dose of efficiency from the chances they create. Everton are on the upside as well but they still lack quality in all areas. I give Southampton home advantage here and they should be able to secure full points against the Toffees.

Win: Crystal Palace, Southampton

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Arc 2022 - Japan at long last ?

ParisLongchamp hosts the greatest Flat race of the year on Sunday. There is nothing that comes close in terms of prestige and there is no doubt that its reputation would have been further enhanced if it could do without the deluge of rain that bestows upon the racetrack at this time of the year. Let's face it; countless champions have failed to act on the heavy ground and many have opted to bypass it altogether based solely on the underfoot conditions. It is what it is, the Arc is the most coveted of them all, particularly to the Japanese, who I believe, have a monstrous chance this year.

Ah... memories of Deep Impact, the greatest of all the Japanese thoroughbreds. How mismanaged he was, leading the pack, when he was the best closing finisher of them all. And he failed the drug test, pure incompetence from the trainer! And Orfevre, the mad genius, the most talented of them all. He was coasting 100 yards from the finish, you could have bet your life Japan had finally hit its holy grail. And the inevitable happened, and Japanese hearts had never been so broken. 

But the Japanese thoroughbred has arrived. Delta Blues and Pop Rock for a 1-2 in the Melbourne Cup. So many Japanese wins at the Dubai Carnival: Victoire Pisa, Heart's Cry, Almond Eye, Just a Way and recently Shahryar to name a few. Deidre winning the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. And finally they conquered America with Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine last year.

The only bastion left is the Arc. So many seconds in there and this year could be the one when they make the long-awaited breach. They will be a 4-strong contingent: Titleholder, Deep Bond, Do Deuce and Stay Foolish. None of them is on a par with Deep Impact or Orfevre, but they might not have to be. Deep Bond probably does not belong but the other 3 can have their say.

Do Deuce is the 3-year old Japan Derby winner. He was somewhat disappointing in his prep race, the Prix Niel, finishing only 4th, but that was his first race after a layoff and should be in a better disposition with the cobwebs removed. Definitely has an outside chance.

Stay Foolish was mighty impressive winning in Riyadh and Meydan at the start of the year. He definitely has the experience for those big races. He is definitely suited for a bigger distance than a mile and a half but if it is a stamina-sapping contest, he might vie for the the places.

Then we have Titleholder, who I believe, could be The One. Like Stay Foolish and Deep Bond, this is a stayer with an abundance of stamina and winner of the Japanese St Leger. But this middle-class performer has a lot of class, matched with speed enough to win a top-class mile and a half race. He usually figures prominently or takes control of his races, submits his opponents to the ground by leading the line with blistering speed. It is almost obvious that he will take a serious option for the lead on Sunday and if he is 5 lengths clear entering the straight, it could be Sayonara baby time for Japan! This horse has the potential of setting fractions enough to demoralize the likes of an unproven-at-the-distance star like Vadeni!

Out of the rest of the pack, I will note the following 3 as the main contenders to Titleholder: Torquator Tasso, Alpinista and Luxembourg. Tasso is the reigning champion, the one who shocked the world last year by beating a strong field that included Tarnawa and Hurricane Lane. It was no fluke, Tasso was the best on the day, winning while having to cover a lot of ground on the outside. But the heavy footing was his best ally. If the conditions are similar this Sunday, Tasso has a major chance. And it doesn't hurt to have Dettori as rider. I think Tasso can and will run huge.

Alpinista has won 7 races on the trot and relishes the distance. She's beaten Tasso before and will get the advantageous 3 pounds allowance as a mare. If she continues on her fantastic form, she can be a proper danger to the males. Based on her record, she cannot be under-estimated.

Finally, Luxembourg, the favourite. Mighty impressive although beaten in the 2000 Guineas, he was struck with a big layoff due to injury. He's come back great, winning a Group 3 in a rather hard-fought manner and then the Irish Champion Stakes where he finally showcased all the good that connections throught of him. Being a Camelot, there is no doubt he will find the distance right up his alley. His profile going into the race looks very good. I think he will be in the whereabouts at the finish but it could be there are one or two that show better class on the day. 

Imagine the scene; Titleholder leading El Condor Pasa-style entering the mythical ParisLongchamp straight, and showing no signs of letting up. Roared on by the Japanese crowd in the stands, spurred by thousands in front of their tvs in the wee-hours of the morning, Jap time. Could there be a better climax to a race when he flashes past the post, champion-style? The expectation of a nation finally met. Their dream come true. The Holy Grail attained. Could Sunday be that day?

Win: Titleholder

Friday, September 16, 2022

EPL 22/23 - Week 7

 Wolves v Man City - Home

Brighton v Crystal Palace - Away

Newcastle v Bournemouth - Home

Tottenham v Leicester - Home

Brentford v Arsenal - Draw

Everton v West Ham - Home

There are bound to be a few surprises in this shortened week-end of EPL matches as teams have had their rhythm broken by last week's unplanned postponements. So, I can see Everton beat West Ham and Crystal Palace get the spoils at Brighton; the latter being more that the Seagulls are now a big question mark with the departure of manager Potter to Chelsea.

But I think that a shocker can come at the Molyneux where Wolves entertain league mighty Man City. The Citizens were arguably lucky to beat Dortmund in mid-week and the Germans should logically have come up with a draw at the very least. City were lethargic for much of the match and it only took the brilliance of Haaland to get them out of trouble. With that kind of performance, Wolves can certainly shock them. The hosts are strongly lacking in the goal scoring department but they keep their matches pretty close. If they come out strong and rattle a lacklustre City with a goal, who knows where that can lead ? At current odds, Wolves might be worth a hopeful punt.

I expect Newcastle to comprehensively beat Bournemouth. Their new Swedish striker Isak looks a very good and lively addition.

Win: Newcastle, Wolves, Crystal Palace

Friday, September 2, 2022

EPL 22/23 - Week 6

Everton v Liverpool - Away

Brentford v Leeds - Draw

Chelsea v West Ham - Draw

Newcastle v Crystal Palace - Home

Nott Forest v Bournemouth - Home

Tottenham v Fulham - Draw

Wolves v Southampton - Away

Aston Villa v Man City - Away

Brighton v Leicester - Home

Man Utd v Arsenal - Home

The visit of Man City can certainly spell the end of Steven Gerrard's Villa career as it would be interesting to see how the American owners take in another loss for the Villains. The visitors have started the season brightly, led by their new striker Haaland. The EPL has seen dominant strikers like Shearer, Van Nistelrooy and Henry to name a few, but Haaland looks on a par or even higher level. He's only just 22 but it seems he's ready to destroy all in front of him. He might be the missing piece for the all-elusive Champions League for the Citizens. I cannot see anything other than a visitor win at Villa Park.

Liverpool was oh-so-lucky to get full points against Newcastle in mid-week. They certainly are staggering along at the moment and not playing their flowing football of recent past. They are missing Mane, Salah looks off-form and Milner and Henderson are hardly world-beaters in midfield. That said, Klopp's men have been relishing the Merseyside derbies of late and Everton simply have not had the team to match them in recent years. It's hard to see any change to that trend in Saturday's early kick-off and Everton will be hard-pressed to get a point from that match. I think the Kops will edge this by the odd goal.

I have been pleasantly surprised by Southampton's play of late. I mentioned they would beat Chelsea in mid-week which they duly obliged. I thought they had enough chances to snatch a draw in their defeat by Man Utd in the previous match. All in all, the team is young and looks on the ascendancy. They can surprise Wolves at the Molyneux. I thought the Wanderers were disappointing not to beat a diminished Bournemouth team on wednesday and they are having problems clicking up-front. Going for a Saints win could offer good value here.

Win: Liverpool, Man City, Southampton