It’s hard to believe West Ham sold their best player. Striker Sebastian Haller departed for Ajax a little over £20 million, in our opinion a bad bit of business from the Hammers. Robert Snodgrass as also moved on, but he will be less missed. David Moye’s team won their last league game against Everton, and since then they advanced in the FA cup against Stockport. From what we saw of that latest game, we very much doubt the coach was impressed by any of his starters that day to give them a call-up today! If usually, reliable goalkeeper Nick Pope was a bit more awake, Burnley would have stopped Man Utd from claiming the last round (1-0) victory. Other than that, the Clarets managed to make 13 goal attempts, although none of them tested the United goalkeeper. Scoring goals (9 in 16 league games) is clearly an issue with Shaun Dyche’s team, so something needs to improve in that department. On a more positive note, only 5 teams conceded fewer goals this season, so the defence is working well! Burnley have 1-2 games in hand of other teams in the league, and they only tasted defeat in three from their last 10 league matches. Only the two Manchester clubs and Leeds took maximum points against the Clarets, whereas Arsenal, Sheffield United, Wolves, and Crystal Palace were all beaten. Drawing with in-form Aston Villa, and Everton have also been other good results! We can’t get away with Haller being sold, it’s crazy and will make the Hammers life much more difficult.
The most tipped mare in the race is last time out winner BELLE DE MANECH. Unfortunately for her, a 6-pound penalty is going to make it more challenging. MIDNIGHT GINGER is also penalised and it stopped her last time out. It’s got to be winning bumper ALLAVINA, her debut was a good one and she can only get better.
CALL SIMON is an out and out stayer who’s improving. Nicky Martin only had him for three of his five races, and this talented trainer seems to have found the key by stepping him up in trip. While the 6-year-old is not one of the easiest rides, a mark of 105 is more than fair. Matt Griffiths will no doubt want to ride him closer to the pace today, a tactic that will suit this course!
Things have certainly been picking up for Arsenal, and the Gunners go into this on the back of three straight league wins. The 3-1 win over Chelsea would have been the stand-out from those performances, albeit the last two wins came on the road and the latest was a 0-4 over West Brom. On a less convincing note, Mikael Arteta’s team needed extra time to get past Newcastle in last weeks FA cup. O that occasion the coach used more first-team regulars than his counterpart, and they failed to land odds of 1.36. Arsenal is set to boost by the return of midfielder Thomas Partey, while defender Gabriel could also be back after a period of self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms. Gabriel Martinelli, who injured his ankle in the warm-up ahead of the Newcastle is the only confirmed absentee! Following 7-0 (Liverpool) and 3-0 (Aston Villa) defeats, Crystal Palace bounced back to draw against Leicester and follow up with a win over Sheffield United. The visitors did lose a FA cup match at the weekend to Wolves (1-0), but Hodgson made 8 changes to the first team for that game! The Eagles are unbeaten in the last four meetings with Arsenal, and they even won (2-3) in this stadium. While it’s fair to point out that Roy Hodgson will be without Mamadou Sakho and Jeff Schlupp, only the latter played most games (15) this season. Other missing players Wickham, Kelly, Hennessey and Ferguson haven’t played a match between them. Scott Dann is a slight doubt, but more importantly, Gary Cahill is available again! We like Palace!
To say there is a lot of bad feeling before this game would be an understatement. Fulham coach Scott Parker said it’s scandalous that he had to prepare his team on 48 hours notice. When the press asked Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho if it was fair to ask Fulham to play at short notice, he responded they had 48 hours I received the information two hours before the weekend cup game. Mourinho said he would consider recalling Erik Lamella who just served a period of self-isolation for breaking the Covid-19 rules. The hosts only confirmed absentee is Giovani Lo Celso (hamstring), albeit Pierre-Emile Holbjerg is a doubt. Steven Bergwijn is available after recovering from a knock, and Mourinho might be tempted to use a couple of his players who started the weekend match in Marine. Whatever the case, all the big names were given the day off at the weekend and are expected to return. Fulham is currently the third bottom of the league, but they have two games in hand. Parker confirmed that none of his players was feeling any after-effects of Covid-19, and according to the club, they have no players are unavailable for tonight's derby. The Cottagers did have a run out at the weekend beating QPR in the FA cup. While that game needed extra time the coach made 9 changes. Long-term injured Josh Onomah, Kenny Tete and Terence Kongolo all returned from the sidelines on Saturday and are available for selection today. Prior to the forced break, Fulham had been improving. A win against Leicester, plus draws with Southampton and Liverpool are proof they are competitive in this league. The Cottagers are unbeaten in five, and they have a full-strength squad available.
The Granada bubble appears to have burst. The Andalusian team come into this on the back of a 0-4 defeat by Barcelona, and prior to that, they were beaten by Eibar. Diego Martinez’s team started the campaign in great form, and they also qualified for the next round of the Europa League. With a February date against Napoli lined up Granada clearly need to improve. To be fair the hosts have a big squad, and the owners put a lot of money into player acquisitions. Nevertheless, we can’t get away from the fact that they are failing to perform! Granada is without suspended Jesus Vallejo. Victor Diaz and Lozano remain sidelined, while Quini and Gonalons are doubts! Osasuna might be 2nd bottom of the league, but they are actually playing well. In the last round, the Pamplona club kept Real Madrid down to just one shot on target. That 0-0 draw was a fantastic effort from Arrasate’s men, and so was the recent draw in Real Sociedad. Considering an 8th-minute red card against Alaves, a draw was a good result. Furthermore, at least the Gorritxoak have been winning cup games, and in the league, they beat Athletic, Celta Vigo, and Cadiz. Only Adrian, Brasanac, Avila, and Ruben are now sidelined for the visitors, so no excuse on that score!
Heracles have a youthful 28 man squad (average age of 23.8). Outside of the goalkeepers (Blaswich 29, Brouwer (27) and 33-year-old centre back Tim Breukers, the most recent starting line ups didn’t contain anyone over the age of 25.. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Frank Wormuth’s team sometimes look a bit naive, but other than that they play some decent football. While the Heraclieden were defeated in the last round by Vitesse, they should have taken something from that game. Prior to today, the host won back to back fixtures in Groningen and Heerenveen. A draw in Feyenoord and a 4-1 win over Utrecht are other positive results in the last 10 games. The hosts are without Marco Rente, Teun Bijeveld, and Navajo Bakboord. At this rate, Emmen are sure to be relegated. As it stands, Dick Lukkien’s side has just 5 points from 15 games. The visitors are yet to win a league game this season, and they lost the weekend game to Twente (1-4). Seedorf, Caciano, and Carty are still missing, while Payne remains a doubt! Go Heracles!
AN TAIBHSE wasn’t given a hard introduction, and he should improve on that level of form. However, he’s facing the potentially decent point to point winner KILBREE WARRIOR. While the selection is giving three pounds to the two ahead of him in the betting, he’s having that offset by using Barry Browne for the ride. I want to ignore his latest run because he wasn’t suited by the track, today we should see him in a different light!
I’m not buying into ROCKSTAR RONNIE being the rightful favourite. Winning a point to point doesn’t justify debuting at 7/4 in a race like this. ONWARD ROUTE is yet to win a race, and I for one prefer giving another chance to DOMAINE DE L’ISLE. Sean Curran has his string in excellent form, and the 8-year-old is rated a lofty 140 over fences. He’s the winner of 5/19 races, and he’s also won on this ground. While he would probably prefer a bit further, conditions should make this a real slog and that will suit him best!
I suppose we killed this bet a bit with the odds, lets see if she can pull it off! —Jana Fett is the more established player, but back in October, she lost to today's opponent Francesca Jones. On that occasion, the Brit came from a set down, and by the end, she won readily. In the first round here the 20-year-old thrashed Monica Niculescu, and that form shouldn’t be underestimated. The player from Leeds is a former semi-finalist at the French juniors open. Her rank improved to a career-high 249, and she’s done that despite having a rare disease (born with eight fingers and seven toes) called Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia. What we like about Jones is she’s a big hitter, and she’s found a lot more balanced in the way she’s playing.
There should be more to come from SONG OF THE HUNTER. He looked like the most likely winner before falling at the penultima hurdle when last seen. While the h’capper raised him 2 pounds for that effort he’s got a 7-pound claimer reducing his weight. This heavy ground shouldn’t be an issue and he’s likely to lead from the start!
Spezia is without 11 players for tonights match against Sampdoria. Stand-in centre back Ismajli is out after being sent off in the recent win over Napoli (1-2). Saponara, Acampora, Mora, Bartolomei, Zoet, Bastoni, Sala, Capradossi, Ricci, and Mattiello are the other sidelined. A couple of those came off the bench in that last game, but only Ismajli is missing from the starting line. On a more positive note, regular centre back Chabot is back from suspension, and so is midfielder Estevez. Vincenzo Italiano will also know Verde and Galabinov are closing in on returns, and he will be grateful for having a 36 man squad. Claudio Ranieri keeps just a 25 man squad at Sampdoria, so he must be grateful for having the majority of his players fit. Only Ferrari, Prelec, and Gabbiadini are sidelined for the visitors, and none of them has been overly involved this season! Spezia shocked Napoli in the last round, and if anything they did it with a weaker team than today. If they can beat the Partenopei on the road why can’t they beat La Samp at home? While the visitors did get the better of Inter in the last round they used up a lot of Lady Luck. The hosts are showing the right character, and beating Napoli is worth more than the three points!