Ed Chamberlin: Big weekend for Crystal Palace and Andros Townsend
Ed Chamberlin says the MNF clash with Fulham could be a defining night in Crystal Palace's season.
Last Updated: 17/10/13 11:32pm
The first part of the qualifying campaign was uninspiring but the finishing straight against Montenegro and Poland was thrilling and congratulations to Roy Hodgson and his team for making it to Brazil as group winners.
We can all now dream, though a dose of reality comes from Sky Bet, who have England at 22/1 to win the 2014 World Cup. I doubt there will be many takers even at that price but this England team seems to be steadily improving and it's good to think that England might go to World Cup as a united, happy group and that Roy will continue to put the accent on attack and they won't die wondering.
It's a fascinating conundrum now for the England management as to how they combine all the attacking talent now available with extra steel in midfield. It's fine to have two in central midfield at Wembley against the likes of Montenegro and Poland but that will surely be too brave against top sides in Brazil.
There were even warning signs against both sides at Wembley, particularly from Poland's counter-attacking on Tuesday night. Hodgson has plenty of time now to experiment and find that balance. England fans seem more realistic these days but it's still good to have people - and players - excited about the national team again.
Andros Townsend was the star of the show in both games and it will be good to see him in action on Super Sunday at Villa Park. Punters who back Townsend at 4/1 to score in the game are bound to get a good run for their money as he will be absolutely buzzing and loves to shoot!
Aston Villa look set to have Christian Benteke back in the side on Sunday, which will give them a big boost.
Benteke has 44% of Aston Villa's goals this season, while last season his 19 Premier League goals accounted for 40% of Villa's goals.
Villa have been an enigma for punters so far this season, busting coupons with wins against Arsenal and Manchester City then losing games you'd expect them to win. Anything could happen against Tottenham on Sunday and it should be a decent game.
Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football returns the following evening with Crystal Palace against Fulham. You sense it is a massive game in Palace's season.
They were unlucky to run in to two in-form teams in Southampton and Liverpool but trips to places like Anfield are not where Crystal Palace's Premier League fate will be decided. It's nights like this that are crucial for survival.
You need to win home games, especially against the sides that are in your mini-league also looking for survival - just as Palace did against Sunderland on the Saturday Night Football last month. They are an 8/5 chance with Sky Bet to repeat that win against Fulham on Monday night.
Fulham have also had a difficult start to the campaign but come here after a vital, morale-boosting win against Stoke. Martin Jol's side have so much attacking talent in their squad yet goals have been hard to come by.
One goal was enough against the Potters but they haven't scored more than one in any Premier League game this season.
When Berbatov, Bent, Taarabt, Ruiz and co. eventually click, Fulham will be in business but Ian Holloway will be encouraged that Fulham have lost their last two Premier League games on the road without scoring.
Rod Street and his Great British Racing team do a terrific job for the sport but I imagine they always feared the likelihood of heavy ground for their big day and the possibility of a Champions Day without any 'champions'.
At this time of year the former is always likely and having been spoilt by Frankel's presence for the last two seasons, despite the lack of a superstar this year there are plenty of stars on show and we have a really good card to look forward to on Saturday. I hope they get the big crowd their efforts deserve.
I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the display of top sporting trophies which will include the FA Cup, Ashes urn, Rugby League Challenge Cup, the Calcutta Cup and Jules Rimet Trophy. Not a bad collection.
Who will win Saturday's big prizes? The best 'story' on the card could come in the opening race, the Long Distance Cup, with the reappearance of the Queen's Gold Cup heroine Estimate. A win for her in the opener would get the meeting off to a flying start.
Being at Royal Ascot to see her win was one of the sporting highlights of the summer and it would be good for the sport and Champions Day to see her triumph again. However, I'm happy to take her on after such a long absence, in totally different conditions and at such a short price (5/2 with Sky Bet).
The one I like is Aidan O'Brien's Eye Of The Storm. He's been progressive this autumn and handled heavy ground really well at Listowel on his penultimate start. He may only have one eye but Eye Of The Storm is a talented horse who could easily develop in to one of the top stayers next season. He'll get weight all round on Saturday and the 12/1 with Sky Bet is worth snapping up.
In the Fillies' and Mares' Stakes I'm looking forward to seeing Hot Snap (7/1 with Sky Bet) tried over this longer trip. She looks like a galloper to me and I fancy her to turn around the Blandford Stakes form with Belle De Crecy.
Hot Snap has never really fulfilled the potential we saw when she blew away Sky Lantern in the Nell Gwyn. Connections still have faith and Saturday could be the day.
This year's QE II doesn't set the pulse racing, especially with Toronado set to defect to the Breeders' Cup. Dawn Approach will be a tough nut to crack but I do like the chances of both Soft Falling Rain and Maxios.
Ed's backing Soft Falling Rain in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Bet now
Soft Falling Rain looks like a hugely talented colt and was really impressive at Newmarket last month. He'll have been trained to peak for this and IF he handles the ground after the heaving falling rain, I think Soft Falling Rain will win. On heavy ground, Maxios looks a big danger. Again he is peaking at the right time and will relish a test of stamina.
The French should win the Champions Stakes. I said last week Sky Bet's 5/2 on Cirrus des Aigles should be snapped up and predictably the race has fallen apart around him. Unlike so many of the others, Cirrus des Aigles has been targeted at this race and on this ground should be very hard to beat.