Germany versus England, Wednesday, March 22

Germany versus England, Wednesday, March 22  Notwithstanding injuries to Harry Kane , Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney, it speaks volumes for the state of the respective national sides that, on a night when 31-year-old German striker Lucas Podolski bids farewell to international football, Gareth Southgate has been forced to recall 34-year-old Jermain Defoe to the England squad. Despite a spate of international retirements, German coach Joachim Low can still call on many experienced players plus, of course, an influx of bright, young talent. Friendly or not, expect England to be second best, by some way; Germany are worthy favourites and, even at 3/4 with Sporting Bet or Paddy Power, look a shade overpriced.

Selection: Germany to win (3/4 with Sporting Bet and Paddy Power)

Cheltenham Gold Cup, Friday, March 17

At the time of writing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is just over a week away but, with most bookmakers offering ‘non runner no bet’ on the Blue Riband event of the National Hunt season, now could be the time to get stuck into Colin Tizzard’s progressive young chaser Native River.

The 7-year-old has gone from strength to strength this season, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, the Welsh Grand National, over 3 miles 5½ furlongs, and the Denman Chase, over 2 miles 7½ furlongs on his last three starts. The son of Indian River is officially rated 3lb inferior to stable companion Cue Card, but the latter has failed to win on three of his four attempts beyond 3 miles, his only win coming in the Betfred Bowl, over 3 miles 1 furlong, on the sharp Mildmay Course at Aintree last April. Admittedly, Cue Card was travelling ominously well when coming to grief at the third last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year, but whether he’d have won or not is debatable and stamina doubts remain.

Native River has failed to win on two previous visits to the Cheltenham Festival, finishing ninth of 19, beaten 53 lengths, behind Martello Tower in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and second of 20, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the National Hunt Chase. However, he jumps soundly, has proven stamina and is fully effective with cut in the ground, so he looks a decent to make it third time lucky. For further cheltenham festival races info check out my Cheltenham Festival site.

Selection: Cheltenham 3.30 Native River to win (4/1 with Betfred, Paddy Power, Totesport, Betfair Sportsbook and BetBright)