Blogs & Opinion


Championship clues

Ed looks at the best bets on another big weekend of sport

Ed Chamberlin - Ed Chamberlin Posted 31st January 2013 view comments

Sky Bet's Premier League title odds: 1/5 Man Utd, 4/1 Man City, 33/1 Chelsea, 250/1 bar

It's already been quite a week in the Barclays Premier League with a thrilling midweek programme and the end of the January Transfer window.

Thursday is a hectic day on Sky Sports News but also must be a frantic one on the Sky Bet trading floor as they somehow manage to price up all the potential deals. All sorts could happen before 11pm.

Sprinter Sacre: needs a rival to capture the imagination, says Ed

Sprinter Sacre: needs a rival to capture the imagination, says Ed

It's been another excellent week for Manchester United who shortened up to 1/5 from 4/11 to win the title after they edged past Southampton to go seven points clear at the top, while Manchester City were frustrated at QPR on Tuesday night. This week summed up the top of the table in a nutshell - United have been by far the best team this season at digging out results when not playing well.

The hype and build up for Sprinter Sacre v Flemenstar would be terrific and surely capture sports fans' imaginations plus lift the winner to superstar status.

Ed Chamberlin
Quotes of the week

City (5/6 to win with Sky Bet) could go in to Super Sunday's game at home to Liverpool (3/1) 10 points behind again if United (4/7) win at Fulham (4/7) on Saturday evening.

Before the match at the Etihad we have West Brom (5/2) against Tottenham (21/10) - we'll be live from 1pm on Sky Sports HD1.

Last weekend's sport is going to take some beating. FA Cup shocks galore, yet more brilliance from Messi and Ronaldo, and sensational racing at Cheltenham.

This weekend promises to be even better with the Premier League back in action, more Cheltenham Festival clues in Britain and Ireland, plus the start of the Super League and Six Nations and Superbowl XLVII.

I grew up watching the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice era and had a couple of memorable trips to Candlestick Park so it's great to see the 49ers back in the Super Bowl. They are Sky Bet's favourites to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy and have to give up 3.5pts on the handicap (San Francisco 10/11, Baltimore 10/11).

Sky Bet have a feast of markets on the game and you can bet on anything and everything from the total number of sacks in the game to which team will get the first turnover. I'd be lying if I said I knew a whole lot about the sport but I'm looking forward to watching the Super Bowl when I get back from the Etihad on Sunday night and I'll be cheering on the 49ers and backing Colin Kaepernick to win the MVP award.

Sky Bet's prices on the Six Nations: England 19/10, France 2/1, Ireland 7/2, Wales 9/2, Scotland 33/1, Italy 200/1.

I'm not sure about the quality of the competition after the numerous drubbings the home nations took to the Southern Hemisphere sides in the autumn. England play France at Twickenham so have a great opportunity to win it and will be out to prove that the win against the All Blacks was not a fluke.

Horse racing

With no Premier League football last weekend I was able to enjoy a superb day's racing at Cheltenham. It was as good as any day at a Festival with a mercurial performance from Sprinter Sacre and a number of thrilling finishes up the famous hill. It was also nearly a very profitable one with only The New One letting down doubles, trebles and yankies. Wretched AP McCoy.

However, as AP said after lifting At Fishers Cross across the line with an inspired piece of riding, not all the best horses were winning on that desperate ground on Saturday. I think that certainly applied to The New One, who showed a brilliant turn of foot to go clear as they turned for home.

I said last week that I fancied him for the Neptune before Saturday and that expensive defeat has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. I have added him to my ante-post portfolio at 5/1 with Sky Bet - alongside Un Atout at 7/1 in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Sprinter Sacre was imperious again and the one horse to glide through the horrible ground. On a day when races were slogs and battles, he floated to victory. Pure class. He rightly had racing fans purring and is down to 2/7 with Sky Bet to win the Champion Chase.

My sadness is that that race promises to be a procession - Cue Card, Finian's Rainbow, Sizing Europe (who would be a standout bet at 8/1 for the Ryanair if you knew that was his target) could all go elsewhere - and a turn-off for some punters so Nicky Henderson star won't get the media attention he deserves.

What tells the story at moment is that very few people in my department at Sky have even heard of Sprinter Sacre. I'm convinced that, in order to capture the sporting public's imagination, he needs a rival and the one horse who can save the race is Flemenstar.

He runs in the Irish Hennessy over three miles next weekend, which will decide his Festival target. A big part of me hopes he doesn't stay as I'd love to see Flemenstar run back over two miles as I think he's a machine.

The hype and build up for Sprinter Sacre v Flemenstar would be terrific and surely capture sports fans' imaginations plus lift the winner to superstar status.

The hardest Championship puzzle to solve at the moment is the Champion Hurdle, which is shaping up like a fiercely competitive renewal. Another piece was fitted on Sunday with Hurricane Fly's facile win at Leopardstown, which I don't think told us anything new but saw Sky Bet shorten him to 5/2 favourite.

He's clearly back in good form but likely to face a totally different test to beating similar horses in small fields in Ireland. He's a fantastic horse and entitled to be favourite but this looks a much deeper Champion Hurdle to the one Hurricane Fly won two seasons ago and I couldn't back him at that price.

Darlan has been a favourite of mine since AP gave him as his horse for us to follow last season. The Champion jockey thinks the form of his Christmas Hurdle win isn't up to much but I also sense he thinks this horse is a bit special.

Darlan is set to run on at Sandown on Saturday and will hopefully confirm his credentials. My worry with Darlan is whether Cheltenham really suits him. He's been high class on flat tracks but I don't think either of his runs at Cheltenham so far has seen him at his best.

That's a sentiment I thought also applied to Darlan's stablemate Grandouet (6/1). I used to think he was a flat track, bridle horse. The International at Cheltenham changed all that. I thought he would struggle to give weight to Zarkandar (6/1) after a long absence and on ground he didn't like so thought he ran a blinder in second and I was particularly impressed by what he found off the bridle up the hill. The sharper Old Course in March is going to play to his strength - speed.

We'll learn more this weekend but at the moment the Champion Hurdle looks a hard puzzle to solve and a race full of really good horses, who have little between them. I just think Darlan and Grandouet could be the two with an x-factor.

I make my debut as a racehorse owner on Sunday as part of the 'Goodfellow' syndicate that owns Wayne Manor, who is set to run in the Triumph Hurdle trial at Musselburgh. He's trained by Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore and has been working nicely at home but this is a tough task on his hurdling bow.

I shall be eagerly awaiting news in the studio at Manchester City!

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Carragher

Carra: Drop Mario for Madrid

Jamie Carragher says Liverpool must leave out Mario Balotelli to get a result against Real Madrid in the Champions League....

Gary Neville

Nev: United not hitting heights

Gary Neville says Manchester United must not be afraid to “lump it forward” against Chelsea....

Graeme Souness

Souness - City must adapt

Graeme Souness says Man City shouldn't play two strikers if they want the win they need in Moscow....

Latest News RSS feeds

Sky Sports Today

Reaction to Man Utd's 2-2 draw at West Brom, Champions League build-up plus breaking football news in our live blog.

Nev: United not hitting heights

Gary Neville says Manchester United must not be afraid to “lump it forward” against Chelsea.

Carra: Drop Mario for Madrid

Jamie Carragher says Liverpool must leave out Mario Balotelli to get a result against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Live transfer updates

Papers report QPR could try and offload Rio Ferdinand in January, while Chelsea check out a young Marseille midfielder.

Taarabt hits back at Redknapp

QPR forward Adel Taarabt has hit back at manager Harry Redknapp over claims that he is overweight and unfit to play.

Features

West Brom 2 Man Utd 2: Five talking points including Saido Berahino, Robin van Persie and United’s defence

West Brom 2 Man Utd 2: Five talking points including Saido Berahino, Robin van Persie and United’s defence

West Brom led twice through fine goals from Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino but each time were pegged back by equally impressive strikes from the visitors. Marouane Fellaini finally found the net for United with a superb finish before Daley Blind’s measured effort secured a point.

Champions League: From Caen to Roma via Lille, Rudi Garcia has beaten the odds and is ready for Bayern Munich

Champions League: From Caen to Roma via Lille, Rudi Garcia has beaten the odds and is ready for Bayern Munich

When Caen were promoted to the French top flight for the first time in their history in 1988, nobody gave them a chance. This was a league full of stars. A glance of the top scorers in Ligue 1 that season reveals the scale of the task: Papin, Hoddle, Weah, Blanc, Cantona and more.

Barcelona and Ajax: They wore both shirts

Barcelona and Ajax: They wore both shirts

A little over a year ago, Barcelona and Ajax met for their first ever competitive fixture against each other. Such is the way of things, Tuesday’s game at the Camp Nou will be the third of four matches between the sides in just 14 months.