Ed Chamberlin: Ready to jump
Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to the weekend's racing and Premier League action in his latest blog.
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Forget the Open Meeting at Cheltenham or the Hennessy at Newbury, this is going to be - weather permitting - the best weekend of jumps racing so far this season.
There's action over the Grand National fences at Aintree, Sprinter Sacre v Sanctuaire, plus some top novice chasers clashing at Sandown and the best quality field we've seen this term in the John Durkan Memorial Chase .
"Ireland's two leading Gold Cup candidates, Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar, are set to meet with last year's winner Rubi Light and Quito de la Roque and Bog Warrior also in the mix, making it the race of the season so far."
On a weekend of sporting heavyweight clashes, the best head-to-head of the new campaign is over at Sandown in the Tingle Creek with the eagerly anticipated clash between Sprinter Sacre and Sanctuaire, and the sub plot provided by the two rivals to be champion trainer, Nicky Henderson v Paul Nicholls.
It's going to be an intriguing tactical battle with Sanctuaire going from the front, stalked by Sprinter Sacre and whether Nicholls' charge can get last season's Arkle winner off the bridle. If he does, what Sprinter Sacre will find as he hasn't come under any pressure yet over fences.
Jumping is going to be all important and Sky Bet have Sprinter Sacre at 1/2 and Sanctuaire at 9/4. I can't wait to see who comes out on top.
The undercard isn't bad either as top novices Captain Conan, Overturn and Hinterland could meet in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase. The winner is likely to leap to the forefront of the Arkle betting but would do well to match Arvika Legionniere (7/1), who I think put up the best performance by a novice chaser this season at Fairyhouse last weekend.
Finally, keep a close eye out for the horse AP McCoy recommended to us as his horse to follow for the season, My Tent Or Yours, who could re-appear in the opener at Sandown on Saturday.
Another big player to watch on a sensational day's racing.
Only one place to start this week: Sunday's Manchester derby.
Finally, after all the drama on the final day of last season and the early skirmishes of the new campaign, the two best sides in the country go head to head.
The betting suggests it's already a two-horse race for the title with Manchester United odds on with Sky Bet for the first time this season at 5/6 and City a 13/10 chance. Chelsea have gone from 7/2 to 14/1 in the space of a few weeks.
"Sky Bet have the champions as their favourites to come out on top at 5/4, with United a 2/1 chance and the draw at 5/2. The draw price is the one that interests me as I'm sure United would be pleased with that result and for City it would not be a disaster either."
They just can't afford to fall six points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side and, just like last season, the derby is going to be a pivotal occasion in the title race.
Both sides go in to the game with questions to answer. City are unbeaten in the Premier League (if they avoid defeat on Sunday they will equal the club record of 22 League matches unbeaten) but haven't hit the heights of last season, which saw them do the double over United.
They are looking to win three successive league games against United for the first time since 1970. The big occasion bought out the best in Roberto Mancini's team last term. It hasn't in the Champions League this time around and will be interesting to see if a Manchester derby does.
United just keep on falling behind in games and conceding goals - 32 in total now this season. The Red Devils have conceded first in 10 Premier League matches and have gone on to win seven and lose three, while last season they failed to win any of the eight games when conceding first.
A set piece cost them in this fixture last season and has been their Achilles heel again, particularly against Reading in that crazy 34 minutes last weekend.
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Sir Alex's priority is likely to be to tighten up at the back and also have more presence in the centre of midfield where Yaya Toure overpowered them at times last season and David Silva found space to unlock the back four at Old Trafford.
City will be hoping Silva is fit for Sunday and team news along with tactics are going to be crucial.
We'll be live on Super Sunday from 1pm on Sky Sports HD1 and in Sky 3D.
After the big game at the Etihad we have West Ham (9/5) v Liverpool (7/5) live from Upton Park.
It has been contrasting fortunes for these two so far this season and you'd have got long odds at the start of the season on West Ham being in the top half all season, whilst Liverpool have always been in bottom half.
"It can't have been easy for the Sky Bet odds compilers to price up Liverpool's goalscorer market with Suarez suspended. They have Jonjo Shelvey heading a wide open list at 13/2 and Raheem Sterling next in at 7/1."
This will be a real test for Brendan Rogers' side without their talisman and at Upton Park, which will be jumping again after that brilliant second half against Chelsea.
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Those 45 minutes will have really stung Rafa Benitez. Can he get his first League win at Sunderland on Saturday?
Sky Bet have his team at 4/5 and the omens are good as Chelsea have had the sign over Sunderland for years, winning 14 of the last 15 Premier League meetings.
Sunderland's only win in the last 11 years was the 3-0 success at Stamford Bridge in November 2010.
Chelsea have scored 25 goals in the last eight games against the Black Cats and most importantly have won on their last seven visits to the Stadium of Light, scoring 12 goals in the last four.
Other things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend: Tottenham did us a big favour on Saturday winning at Fulham at 11/8. They are 11/4 to follow up at Everton , where they have won more Premier League points (30) than they have at any other ground.
Stoke (15/8) are in great form but their last top division win at Aston Villa came 47 years ago, while Fulham have won five of the last six meetings with Newcastle at Craven Cottage, including each of the last three.