United they stand
Ed Chamberlin analyses the twists in the Premier League and looks back on a thrilling Cheltenham.
Last Updated: 22/03/12 4:38pm
What an extraordinary week. It started with a dramatic finish at the Emirates on the Monday Night Football, then featured my debut presenting a Champions League game, which I described as being on a "knife edge" at the start of the show before Bayern Munich thumped Basel 7-0.
I then enjoyed two fantastic days at the Cheltenham Festival which, despite having little joy with the punting, I rate as one of the great sporting events of the year, though some facilities and stands need urgent updating.
Following that, I enjoyed returning to see friends and colleagues at Sky Sports News to present Friday's Champions League draw, which worked out perfectly for the big four teams, who avoided each other and crucially play their second legs at home. Sky Bet now go 6/5 Barcelona, 7/4 Real Madrid, 11/2 Bayern Munich, 10/1 Chelsea, 20/1 bar.
Saturday saw the Sky Premier League team fly up to Newcastle for Super Sunday. When we got off the plane we were hit by the horrifying news from White Hart Lane. All of a sudden the following day's show seemed irrelevant as Fabrice Muamba fought for his life, first on the pitch in front 36,000 horrified fans, and then at the London Chest Hospital.
It was moving to witness at Newcastle the way the football's fans, players and authorities had united in support of Muamba and thankfully the news on his condition has got more and more encouraging since then. From the highs of MNF and Cheltenham to the low at White Hart Lane, it has been a roller-coaster seven days.
For a long time on Wednesday night it looked like Manchester United would dip to around 1/4 to win the title but City's brilliant comeback and Samir Nasri's winner kept the race alive and United at 8/15 with Sky Bet.
Manchester City's (4/7 to win with Sky Bet) next test is a tough trip to Stoke (9/2) on Saturday where they haven't won since a 3-1 victory at the Victoria Ground in September 1981, when Soft Cell were number one in the charts with 'Tainted Love.' City can go back to the top of the Premier League chart with a win.
That's because Manchester United don't play until Monday Night Football. The champions are once again in relentless form in the league at the business end of a season. Despite not playing that well, United were ruthless in beating Wolves 5-0 on Super Sunday and now play Fulham, who they also beat 5-0 at Craven Cottage in December.
United (1/4) have won the last eight meetings with Fulham (9/1) at Old Trafford in all competitions and have not conceded in the last four. Going further back, United have won 18 of last 19 meetings at home. I hope you can join me and Gary Neville from 7pm on Sky Sports 1HD.
Before that I'll be at West Brom (11/8) for Super Sunday where the home side could be a great bet to beat Newcastle (7/4). West Brom have won their last two games at The Hawthorns against Sunderland and Chelsea without conceding, while Newcastle have lost four of their last five away. WBA are unbeaten in the last six meetings in all competitions, winning three of last four, and have won the last two against Newcastle at The Hawthorns, scoring seven in the process.
Kicking off Sky Sports' Premier League weekend at Saturday lunchtime will be Chelsea (10/11) against Tottenham (13/5). Tottenham's last win at Chelsea came 22 years ago in February 1990. That same month Cambridge United reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison.
Somehow the Cheltenham Festival seems to go from strength to strength. Having found winners hard to come by last week it seems crazy to be looking for winners 12 months down the line but some horses made big impressions.
Sky Bet go 5/1 the field for the 2013 Champion Hurdle and I don't think this year's race was a vintage renewal. Regular readers will know I'm a big Spirit Son fan and if Nicky Henderson can get him back to his best after injury he could be better than this season's cast.
Sprinter Sacre was spectacular in the Arkle and not surprisingly is only 5/4 to become the Champion chaser. The personal highlight of the week was seeing AP McCoy win the Gold Cup. After a run of seconds he'd sent me a message 24 hours earlier saying he thought he'd come second in a two horse race. His Cheltenham changed dramatically on the final day. However, Synchronised will do well to retain his title and Sir Des Champs (6/1) shapes up as a natural for the race and a specialist round the track.
My bet of the week was Boston Bob who wasn't quite good enough in the Albert Bartlett. I said last week he would win the 2013 RSA and I fancy him even stronger now.