Derby day at Old Trafford on Sunday - and this time it means so much more for United than City.
With second place all but secured for the Blues in the Premier League, this is a great opportunity for Pep Guardiola to have an eye on the future and give more big match experience to the likes of Phil Foden.
He was superb in the Carabao Cup final triumph over Aston Villa, with the 19-year- old Stockport born midfielder totally overshadowing England rival Jack Grealish.
I do hope the Academy product is now given a decent run in the side…he certainly deserves it especially after such a long wait.
City are 4/7 at Betfred to pick up three points on Sunday with the Reds 4/1. Both teams have at last sorted out their embarrassing penalty problem and we have Kevin De Bruyne 11/4 to score any time and Bruno Fernandes to do likewise at 7/2.
United, who battled so well for a draw against improving Everton at Goodison Park in their last league game, are locked in a battle royal to achieve a top four finish - and that’s why this game is so important to the Reds.
Leicester and Chelsea are both odds on to finish behind Liverpool and City, but Betfred have United 9/4, Wolves 4/1, Spurs 7/1 while Arsenal and Sheffield United are both 16/1.
The Cheltenham Festival 2020 starts next Tuesday, culminating in Gold Cup Day next Friday. We will feature the Gold Cup next week.
Meanwhile, I’m indebted to Betfred’s racing expert Matt Hulmes who has come up with the these fab four at the greatest show on turf:
EASYSLAND (CROSS COUNTRY) Now is the time that I become very unpopular! I think the cross country prize is destined for France, and the great Tiger Roll will be beaten. There, I said it. I was at Cheltenham in December when Easysland, just a five-year-old then, beat stablemate and Cheltenham regular Amazing Comedy by an easy seven lengths. Subsequently been purchased by JP McManus, the now six-year-old has shown he stays the course well, won his prep race at Pau and looks to be the toughest challenge Tiger Roll will have faced over this course. He has fell a few times in France as he is an economical jumper, sometimes too low, but the Cheltenham course would not be as tough as some of those over the Channel and this could be the start of him dominating this event for a few years.
A PLUS TARD (RYANAIR CHASE) The most empathic winner at last year’s festival, winning the Novice Hcap Case by 16 lengths over the same trip, he has taken his form to a new level this season by beating leading Champion Chase hope Chacun Pour Soi comfortably at Leopardstown over two miles over Christmas to land his first Grade One. Although he has speed, this two and a half mile trip looks his optimum and is worth following in against the likes of last year’s winner Frodon and also Min to give Rachel Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead another festival success.
MINELLA MELODY (MARES NOVICE HURDLE) it could be a good Thursday afternoon for the De Bromhead/Blackmore combination as I think they’ll take the mares novice contest courtesy of Minella Melody. She landed the Solerina Hurdle in good style back in January, a race that both Limini and Laurina landed en route to festival success and was won last season by stablemate Honeysuckle. Minella Melody is three from three over hurdles and in a year that Willie Mullins, who has dominated this contest, doesn’t appear to have a stand-out candidate, the prize can head back to Knockeen.
GOSHEN (TRIUMPH HURDLE) was very useful on the flat, rattling off a soft ground hat-trick for John Gosden and could have developed into a cup horse on the level. However, he has joined Gary Moore for a jumps career and has won all three hurdles starts by an aggregate of 68 lengths. And that form has also stood up. His first victim (beaten 23 lengths) followed up next time, then got slammed again by 18 lengths when they met as Ascot, while those he smashed at Sandown, 34 lengths and upwards have combined for three wins and some fair place handicap form. His recent Ascot victory was boosted when the runner-up (11 lengths behind) turned a competitive Ascot handicap into a procession last month. It looks a hot decision this year, but Goshen looks the one to be on.
Betfred are odds on that Warrington turn their disappointing season round and beat early leaders Castleford in Friday’s TV game.
Steve Price’s stop-start team are at home which is a bonus considering they have such a woeful away record having not won on the road for eight months. We are 8/13 that Wire triumph in what is unquestionably the match of the round. The Tigers who have raised eyebrows with their early season form are 6/4 to keep their great form going and win to pile the pressure on Price’s Wolves.
The 36-0 defeat to fast-improving Leeds has led to soul searching at Warrington, with Daryl Clark on the record as saying some of the embarrassed team will have to put their hands up when the X-rated match video from last Friday is shown.
So far, the odds from Super League’s title sponsors Betfred for winning the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 10 are as follows: the Saints are 2/1 favourites to defend the crown, ahead of Wigan at 3/1, Warrington 4/1, Hull FC 8/1, Castleford 10/1, Catalans 12/1, Leeds 12/1, Huddersfield 33/1 – and it’s 100/1 bar.
On the political front, Sir Keir Starmer is pulling well ahead in the battle to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
Betfred’s odds on him succeeding in the contest, that will be declared on April 4, continue to shorten.
In December, right after Labour’s woeful showing in the general election, the Holborn and St Pancras MP and human rights lawyer was in second place, behind left-wing rival Rebecca Long-Bailey.
Back then, Betfred had the Salford MP as 10/11 favourite – with Starmer 9/4 and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy at 7/2.
But it’s all change now as the trio reach the final straight, with Sir Keir 1/20, Long-Bailey 16/1… and Nandy still in third place at 25/1.
Betfred, meanwhile, has Winston amongst the favourites to be the name of Boris Johnson and fiancé Carrie Symonds’s summer baby.
It’s currently 10/1, behind joint-favourites James and Charlotte at 8/1, that they name the child after the Prime Minister’s hero, Winston Churchill. There has been an upsurge in political punting – and Betfred report that many of those customers are betting on the name-game.
As London Mayor, Boris once claimed he supports all London football teams. That’s led to bets on Frank, after Lampard at Chelsea, at 100/1 – while Roy, Mikel and Jose, after the Palace, Arsenal and Spurs gaffers, are all 200/1 shots.
Betfred also have Donald – as a nod to the US president – at 10/1, and there has been money too on Boris (50/1), Alexander (25/1) and Anthony (50/1).
There appears to be an assumption amongst Betfred punters that the child will be a boy – but if the couple have a girl, Elizabeth, Emmeline, Rachel and Margaret are all 20/1.
There’s also been a surge of bets on Victoria, at 16/1, which is the biggest mover in the market.
Betfred boss Fred Done said: “Honestly, it wasn’t my idea to include Fred – and I notice it’s been cut to 20/1 and so looks to have a fair chance of being chosen. It is an increasingly popular name Fred… and it’s not done me much harm!”
And finally, my congratulations to a pensioner punter who won £684 from a £4 wager at one of our shops in north London on Liverpool losing 3-0 at Watford with Ismaila Sarr scoring first.
I was chuckling afterwards when Troy Deeney, who had bullied Liverpool on a rare off day, said the Hornets had been inspired by heavyweight boxing champ Tyson Fury – and practising their Downward Facing Dog Yoga moves during training.