Ben Coley looks ahead to the weekend in sport, from Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford to racing at Cheltenham and beyond.
Plan for action
The Imposter Syndrome Derby is the football highlight on Saturday afternoon and, I don't know about you, but I'm so excited. Not because Manchester United versus Chelsea in an empty stadium in a top-four showdown can hold a candle to Manchester United versus Chelsea in a packed stadium with the title on the line, because it can't. This excitement is pure schadenfreude: which of these two cavalier operations will completely implode, how will they completely implode, and when will they completely implode?
No, seriously, Frank Lampard is all right isn't he? And I think Frank Lampard's Chelsea might just do a job on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United, despite a giddying week of away wins for the Reds. Chelsea can't defend, but you can see some kind of plan – even if it is as simple as 'do some goals' written in crayon. United's plan? Blind faith in something from the 1990s. Apropos of nothing, Ian Brown is the only United fan in his family.
As ever, for a more serious, considered take on the Saturday's teatime fixture, read Tom Carnduff's preview. He has little faith in the defenders on show and I suspect the pools panel would agree with his verdict: score draw.
Elsewhere it remains to be seen whether Liverpool's ability to cope without Virgil van Dijk is tested by Sheffield United, who visit Anfield just before the clocks go back. The Blades are blunt, sitting towards the foot of all the tables from meaningless (actual Premier League table) to meaningful (xG Premier League table). They are surely in trouble here.
It's true that Sheffield United have seldom lost by many since their return to the Premier League, but there have been hints since the restart that they're more vulnerable than was the case when they lost 2-0 at Anfield back in January. Liverpool to cover the two-goal handicap can close out another full shift in The Barclays.
Football previews on Sporting Life
- Saturday's Premier League tips
- Super Sunday: Mark O'Haire
- More Super Sunday previews
- Sporting Life Accumulator
Football on TV
- Nottingham Forest v Derby - 1945, Sky Sports
- Aston Villa v Leeds - 2000, BT Sport Box Office
- West Ham v Man City - 1230, BT Sport
- Watford v Bournemouth - 1230, Sky Sports
- Fulham v Crystal Palace - 1500, BT Sport Box Office
- Man Utd v Chelsea - 1730, Sky Sports
- Liverpool v Sheffield United - 2000, Sky Sports Box Office
- Aberdeen v Celtic - 1200, Sky Sports
- Southampton v Everton - 1400, Sky Sports
- Wolves v Newcastle - 1630, Sky Sports
- Arsenal v Leicester - 1915, Sky Sports Box Office
Frodon: The Return of the King
It may be no bad thing that Cheltenham eases itself back into view this week, and it does so in two ways: with a Friday nerve-settler, followed by a Saturday card which is more first-base than Showcase.
The novices' chase has a happy habit of being competitive despite lacking in numbers and that remains true of the 2020 renewal. In fact, the whole card is competitive, the sort to whet the appetite of those getting stuck into the form the night before, if not the broader sporting public. Not that this is a battle which can be won on one day in October.
TV producers have a different set of priorities, of course, and they'll be all aboard the Frodon train when he goes to post in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase at half-time in the football. You surely know the drill by now: this little lion loves Cheltenham, Bryony Frost loves him, he loves her, we love them, and so on. Don't get angry about it, internet guy! It's absolutely fine. It's good, actually. Really good.
And how Cheltenham would benefit from these two attacking every fence, winning all 16 battles on the way to another prize at the track. It's certainly possible: of Frodon's 10 rivals, four are out of the handicap, two are veterans, and just one of the remainder holds a potential fitness edge. Whether he can give the best part of two stone to Manofthemountain, we shall find out, but that one has been winning around flatter tracks in calmer waters and this is a new challenge altogether.
This is what Cheltenham always provides: questions. This time, they are of a purely sporting sense. Answers can be found via our on-site reports, but there is a bridge between the two courtesy of prognostication, the kind you'll find in Matt Brocklebank's Value Bet. Word is he may even prefer the National Hunt side of the sport of kings and queens as followers of Antepost Angle will know by now.
We'll also have the latest from Dory DeMassey, our Rory Delargy-Dave Massey punting portmanteau, plus Simon Holt, Timeform, and plenty more. On Timeform, they've held focus on Flat racing and the most significant prize of the day, the Vertem Futurity, in which Wembley comes out best. Read that preview here.
Racing previews on Sporting Life
- Matt Brocklebank's Value Bet
- Racing team: Saturday best bets
- Simon Holt's preview and tips
- Ben Linfoot on the Vertem Futurity Trophy
Racing on television
- Cheltenham - 1405-1735, Racing ITV
- Doncaster - 1310-1710, Sky Sports Racing
- Newbury - 1350-1720, Racing TV
- Kelso - 1250-1653, Racing TV
- Chelmsford - 1607-2015, Racing TV
- Galway - 1340-1707, Racing TV
- Leopardstown - 1320-1649, Racing TV
ITV Racing have four races from Cheltenham, three from Doncaster and two from Newbury, on ITV4
The joy of... Six?
Apparently the top three ways of catching Covid-19 are touching, the sharing of bodily fluids, and popping a finger up a nose or perhaps a backside which isn't your own – all of which means you can expect a cluster to emerge in the Dublin area at around 3.30pm on Saturday, when Ireland host Italy in the Six Nations. Still, at least those in the hot zone won't have to work out why their phone is telling them to book a test at an abandoned portaloo in Redcar. Ireland, IIIIIRELAND!
It really is one of the great national anthems, isn't it? Whereas, I don't know, right now 'God Save The Queen' feels like a fairly desperate plea. Thankfully, she's been avoiding Charlie for some years now – can't be too careful – and should still be with us in time for England's return against Italy next week. We'll have reports on all these and we may even have a winner: Tony Calvin put up France at 100/30 without England, and 13/2 outright, back in January. What a month it was.
Tony has dusted off the cobwebs for a preview of this weekend's international action, which includes the aforementioned Six Nations curtain re-raiser, plus a 'friendly' between Wales and France in which our man fancies the latter to be awfully France about it all. That preview is here.
Rugby union previews on Sporting Life
Milk the cash cow
The IPL has crept its way into view since resuming in September, and I've enjoyed some of Paul Krishnamurty's advice in partnership with Betfair. Paul has bigger fish to fry for now, with the US election approaching, and is worth following on twitter if your interests include politics, cricket, snooker, and gambling. That reads like Richard Mann's CV and he too is churning out some quality IPL content. Most notable though was what he said behind the scenes, on a team Zoom call, which I will quote directly: "It's a cash cow!"
To find out exactly what he was referring to, try this feature on the art of batting and why it is still superior to the modern, bludgeoning approach which is – wrongly, Our Mann says – considered the route to glory in the shortest format of the game. If you want to pass go without collecting those insights and get straight to the tips by which he shall be judged (if not by you, then definitely by us, on Zoom) click here.
Finally, to golf. After a first-round 60, the lowest of his career, all was in place for Laurie Canter to prove a headline writer's dream – he just needed to do something within seven of that for a big lead, and (if you haven't seen this coming, journalism isn't for you) he could CANTER TO VICTORY. Of course, it's seldom that simple, and our (well, my) 66/1 selection will do well to stay in front all week, whatever the outcome. He still leads at the time of writing.
Here's to a big Saturday in Italy, after which Jason Daniels will be forced to write about how well things are going for my pre-event selections, before providing his own acerbic take on the final round. Meanwhile we'll have Martin Mathews previewing the final round of the ZOZO Championship in California which, with the greatest of respect to a man who backed a 250/1 winner two weeks ago, can't go as badly as the CJ Cup did for our PGA Tour in-play man.