In stark perspective
Ed Chamberlin reflects on a sombre weekend in football, when the action seemed irrelevant.
Last Updated: 01/12/11 1:50pm
Sunday was a hard day to have to watch and talk about football.
The tragic news of Gary Speed's death reached us half an hour before we were due to go on air for Super Sunday and immediately made the two Premier League matches on the show seem irrelevant.
There was a shocked silence in the studio as all we could think about was Gary's family, especially his two young sons. The tributes that poured in quickly made you realise just how universally popular Gary Speed was.
Football had lost an iconic player, manager and one of its most loved characters.
"The real deal". That is how Graeme Souness described Manchester City after the match at Anfield on Sunday. And this from a man who knows exactly what it takes to win League titles.
Graeme was most impressed by the way Roberto Mancini's side dominated the first 25 minutes of the match and then showed real steel and determination to hang on for a point when they were down to ten men.
What a contrast to the City side that folded so meekly at Anfield last season.
Sky Bet clearly agree as they have shortened Manchester City from 8/11 to 8/13 to win the title.
Manchester United had the chance to put pressure on City but were left ruing the penalty decision and missed chances against Newcastle and have drifted as a result to 21/10.
Chelsea have shortened two points but the big movers are Tottenham who are in to 16/1 from 28/1 after another impressive display at West Brom. Harry Redknapp's side are on a real roll and will be in many an accumulator at 2/7 with Skybet to beat Bolton on Saturday.
The league leaders are an even shorter price (1/6) to beat Norwich (14/1). This is their first league meeting in over six years, since Manchester City won 3-2 in a Premier League game at Carrow Road in February 2005. Robbie Fowler scored twice for City, including a 90th minute winner.
Manchester United (4/6) have a tougher task at Aston Villa (4/1). Villa are looking for their 50th win over United in all competitions but United have won 21 of the last 28 PL meetings, losing just one of the last 31. Villa's only PL win in the last 16 years was 1-0 at Old Trafford in December 2009. United are unbeaten in their last 15 PL visits to Villa Park, spanning 16 years.
Villa's last PL win at home was 3-1 in Aug 1995. Ian Taylor, Mark Draper and Dwight Yorke (pen) with the goals for Brian Little's side. Take That were at number one at the with Never Forget. However, don't forget that the last three meetings between these two at Villa Park have been drawn. Another stalemate at 11/4 is a distinct possibility.
One of the most interesting matches of the weekend is the 150th meeting between Newcastle (11/4) and Chelsea (evens). Chelsea are on a difgicult run and Newcastle is one of the hardest places to go in the Premier League right now. The Geordies did not lose any of the three meetings with the West Londoners last season. The two PL meetings were drawn and they won 4-3 in a Carling Cup tie at Stamford Bridge. I'm sure plenty of punters will think Newcastle are a big price at 11/4.
This week's Super Sunday focusses on a crucial game at the bottom of the Premier League - Wolves (11/8) v Sunderland (15/8). The summer bought real optimism for both sets of fans but it looks like being a winter of discontent with both sitting just outside the drop zone and are just 2/1 (Wolves) and 4/1 (Sunderland) with Skybet to be relegated. Wolves have won the last three PL meetings and did the double over Sunderland last season for the first time since 1980-81. However, Sunderland sacked Steve Bruce on Wednesday evening and I could see a gamble on them at 15/8 if they make an inspired appointment before Sunday.
From Molineux the team will head back down to London as Monday Night Football is back in action next week with Fulham (9/4) against Liverpool (6/5). Liverpool won both meetings last season, thumping Fulham 5-2 at Craven Cottage, and have now won three of their last four visits to Craven Cottage. Kenny Dalglish has got his team really well set up away from home and they could be a great bet at 6/4.
Sky Bet's Title odds: 8/13 Man City, 21/10 Man Utd, 14/1 Chelsea, 16/1 Tottenham, 33/1 Arsenal, 50/1 Liverpool, 200/1 Newcastle, 2,000/1 bar
The big races come thick and fast at this time of year and this weekend Sandown and Fairyhouse have two outstanding cards.
Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe is the star of the show at Sandown and his jumping over the cross fences should be a sight to behold. I'm just a bit worried about the really hard race he had last time out and any rain in Esher before Saturday would work against him.
My best bet on the card is Safran De Cotte (each-way) in the handicap hurdle at 1.25.
At Fairyhouse on Sunday I'm looking forward to seeing Sous Les Cieux again in the Royal Bond as he's a gorgeous looking individual and reminds me a lot of Mikel d'Haguenet. First Lieutenant will be tough to beat in the Drinmore at 1.20 but keep an eye on Bog Warrior, who the Tony Martin team think is a bit special. Willie Mullins has got the Hatton's Grace Hurdle by the short and curlies!