Can Manchester United Win The Cup For Solskjaer?
There is a break in proceedings in the Premier League this weekend to accommodate the fourth round of the FA Cup. Thirteen teams from the top division are still involved in the competition and there are four last 32 ties that bring together two of those teams. There have only been two finalists from outside the elite clubs during the Premier League era and the cream usually rises to the top.
The tie of the round and the live match on Friday night is Arsenal’s home match against Manchester United. The visitors have now won all seven matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and he is making a convincing case to be the next permanent manager at Old Trafford. If MANCHSTER UNITED win the FA Cup that should confirm his appointment and that outcome is 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
It’s the second week of the Australian Open and there is now an odds-on favourite in Novak Djokovic. Roger Federer is out after one of the biggest shocks of the season, losing to the 14sth seed Stafanos Tsitsipas. Andy Murray lost his emotional first round match but Rafael Nadal is still in the tournament. The combined price for Djokovic and Nadal is 1/2 which means its about 6/4 the field. There have been matches overnight and pending a win the tip is MILOS RAONIC at 10/1 with Betfair at the time of writing.
The biggest betting race of the week before the weekend is the Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday. It’s a wide open contest and bookmakers go 9/1 the favourite in ante post betting. Invitation Only started at 9/2 for a Grade 1 novices’ chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March so is one of the class acts in the field. There has been money for INVITATION ONLY who is 10/1 with Ladbrokes.
The same firm sponsor the Class 4 handicap over five furlongs at Wolverhampton today (4.50). Wedding Date has some decent All-Weather form but on a different type of surface. Uncle Jerry was a beaten favourite last time out and is probably carrying too much weight at this level. However, LORNA COLE is racing off a winnable mark and the horse has the form to win this race at 10/3 with Betfair.
Andy Murray is the favourite to win the ATP Tour Finals which is fitting for the new world number one. The final event of the season takes place at the O2 Arena which makes it a home game for Murray. However, he has never reached the final in seven attempts and he has a difficult group to navigate before a potential showdown with Novak Djokovic a week on Sunday in the final.
The top eight in the standings qualify for the lucrative finals. This year players ranked one to seven are playing in London. Dominic Thiem from Austria finished ninth in the end of season rankings but gets a spot because Rafael Nadal at number eight is not playing. Six of the qualifiers are from Europe and Canada and Japan have one representative but no player from the United States has qualified.
The players are divided into the John McEnroe Group and the Ivan Lendl Group based on world rankings. The odd numbered players are in one group while the even numbered are in another. Each player faces the other three in their group in a round-robin format. The top two in each group will move on to the semi-finals and the winners of those matches meet in the final that could decide who heads the end-of-season rankings. Matches are played over three sets.
Djokovic has won in the last four years and for the first time in 2008. Roger Federer has won the event a record six times but did not qualify this year. Djokovic is the only former champion in the field and none of the other seven players contesting the event this year have made the final. The event is being played indoors on hardcourts which might favour Djokovic. Murray is appearing in London as the world number one for the first time.
He has said in the past he has sometimes felt ‘fried’ coming into the final event of the season. Circumstances have worked against him as he explained:
‘Last year I was getting ready for the Davis Cup final and preparing on clay. It’s not the right way to prepare if you’re playing against the best players. So this year maybe will be different’.
One major difference from the past is that Murray is now at the pinnacle of the game for the first time. He has won his last four tournaments this year and Wimbledon and the Olympics and is a worthy number one in the world. He is the first British player to reach the world number one position.
However, that status has not guaranteed a favourable draw in the John McEnroe Group in the Tour Finals. In the past two years at the O2 Arena Murray has lost to two of his group opponents, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, while his other opponent, Marin Cilic, is at a career high ranking of number seven. If Djokovic goes further in this event than Murray he will win back the world number one spot. Djokovic has won 24 of their 34 meetings including their only indoor hardcourts match. The Serb has won five of his last six matches against Murray.
Djokovic has a 23-0 record against his three opponents and will be a tough nut to crack. He completed the Career Grand Slam in the French Open this year and then he had some uncharacteristic defeats. Problems away from the court may have been a factor but with the right focus he will want to end the season on a high and then regroup for an assault on the majors next season. A final in London between Djokovic and Murray would be a fitting end to the season and determine the number one over the beak.
Mental letdown can certainly be an issue at the start of November and the culmination of a season that began in January. Murray and Djokovic are only human and have suffered in the past and if they have problems this week Marin Cilic can take advantage and win the Tour Finals for the first time.
The men’s and woman’s seasons are now in the latter stages. The focus is now on the season finales in the form of the ATP and WTA finals. The top 8 players in the rankings from both Tours qualify and the events are being played in November and this week respectively. The O2 Arena in London hosts the men’s finals while Istanbul is the location of the women’s event. Ace Betting Club will continue to provide tips until the end of the men’s season next month.
Four players have already qualified for the men’s Tour finals. Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nada and Andy Murray have secured their places. However, Nadal is unlikely to compete due to a long-standing tendon injury. He has not played since surprisingly being eliminated at the second round stage at Wimbledon in June.
The Spanish player is actually unsure when he will be able to return to the game. He was disappointed to miss the Olympics as he is aware that he won’t get many more opportunities to represent his country at that level. He is determined to be still in good shape and competitive at the time of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Nadal has targeted next year’s Australian Open as a realistic tournament at which he will be at full fitness. However, the nature of his injury is such that even that is not guaranteed. He would have to be fit at the start of the year as clearly he wouldn’t want to play his first event after injury at a Grand Slam tournament.
This week there are two low grade tournaments on the ATP Tour. Roger Federer is an odds-on favourite to win the Swiss Indoor title in Basel, a tournament he enjoys as it takes place in the country of his birth. If Federer does not win in Basel, Juan Martin Del Potro is the player most likely to benefit. The Argentinian could still qualify for the season finale and he would go a long way to securing his place by winning the event in Basel. David Ferrer is the favourite to win this week’s ATP Valencia event in the country of his birth.
On both Tours we are embarking on the indoor hardcourt section of the schedule. Players not already qualified will be looking to confirm an invite to the men’s world finals while the women are competing this week in Istanbul. Both these events are seriously lucrative and everyone in the upper echelons of the game wants an opportunity to compete for the massive prize funds. That means the form becomes more reliable at this stage of the season and it could be a profitable enterprise to follow the favourites in upcoming matches.
Back next Friday.
Ace Betting Club