Lucky Punter

Lucky Punter  According to the song, ‘Old Christmas comes but once a year’ but, for one anonymous Sky Bet punter, the festive season started several weeks early in 2017. On December 7 that year, the unnamed individual staked £2.30 each-way on a five-fold accumulator on National Hunt racing at Leicester and Wincanton. Four of his five selections – Arthington (3/1), Vocaliser (18/1), Lagavara (9/2) and Dontmindboys (4/1) – were at Leicester, where his only really anxious moment came in the fifth race on the card, the Lubenham Mares’ Handicap Hurdle. Sent off 4/1 second favourite, Lagavara drew clear with 11/4 favourite Daytime Ahead from the final flight but, after a ding-dong battle with the runner-up on the run-in, eventually prevailed by the narrowest possible margin, a nose.

Thankfully, the gallant gambler was spared any such drama elsewhere, including in the Watch Racing UK On BT TV “Junior” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Wincanton; in that race, his final selection, Acey Milan (7/2), was sent off a well-backed 9/4 second favourite and quickened clear in the closing stages for a comfortable, 9-length victory. In so doing, the Anthony Honeyball-trained gelding landed a jackpot payout of £23,631.36.

Interestingly, none of the winning selections started favourite, a fact that didn’t escape Michael Shinners, Racing Odds Manager at Sky. He said, ‘I’ve got to take my hat off to this customer, despite him causing plenty of glum faces in our trading rooms today, that’s for sure! To take on any favourite and be counting your profit in one race is hard enough, but to do it in all five is just top-class punting.’

Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion

Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion  With the title challenge almost certainly over with now, Arsenal come into this one knowing they need to keep winning just to keep pace with Manchester City in the hope they make a rare mistake or two. A home game against a Brighton and Hove Albion team who just got thrashed 5-1 is a hard game, though, with the Seagulls looking to make up for what was probably the worst loss of their season.

Arsenal News

Arsenal are missing a few important players, with the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and William Saliba almost certain to miss out here. Outside of that, long-term absentees Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mohamed Elneny will both have to sit this one out. Zinchenko is unlikely to make it back this season, so expect Kieran Tierney to get a chance to re-establish himself.

Brighton & Hove Albion News

Brighton are missing a few themselves, with Joel Veltman, Tariq Lamptey, and Adam Lallana all guaranteed to miss out. Solly March is a doubt, which would be a shame as he has been one of the Seagulls best players this season. Outside of this, though, Brighton are relatively healthy – if somewhat bruised after the 5-1 defeat to Everton.


Arsenal to win, but only just. They are running on fumes, and the only saving grace is that with the loss to Everton Brighton have probably missed out on their UEFA Champions League dream. If Arsenal do pull this off, it will not be by much – Brighton rarely drop consecutive poor games.

Score Prediction: 2-1

Manchester City v Leeds United

Manchester City v Leeds United  If you could pick a game to have as your first in a new job, away to Manchester City would be pretty far down the list. Sam Allardyce steps into the fire as Leeds United job, managing the biggest club he has ever been involved with. Can Big Sam find something in his favour in this crucial first match?

Manchester City News

Expect City to line up in their now-common 3-4-1-2 formation. They are only missing Kevin de Bruyne for this one. Despite his qualities, they have enough depth and cover to be able to comfortably handle the loss of their talismanic playmaker.

Given they play Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi finals next week, he likely would not have been risked for this one anyway.

Leeds United News

Leeds have a bit more work to do on the injury front. Tyler Adams is almost certain to miss out, as is Luis Sinisterra after he was injured at the wrong time. Leeds are also without Marcelo Bielsa era stalwarts in Liam Cooper and Stuart Dallas. Dallas has missed the whole season and is not likely to return until next year.


Really, the best that Leeds can hope for is that self-proclaimed Leeds fan Erling Haaland decides to show mercy on his boyhood team. The Whites have little to no hope of getting anything from a team that looks almost certain to go and win at least the league title – though has its eyes set on a treble. Home win.

Score Prediction: 3-0

Argentina v Saudi Arabia

Argentina v Saudi Arabia  As a game that immediately screams ‘Lionel Messi for top scorer’, Argentina playing Saudi Arabia on opening match of a FIFA World Cup throws up some great opportunities. This game is going to come with some very intriguing match-ups, but the simple fact is that for all of the results Saudi get in the Asian conference they very rarely bring that with them to the biggest stage.

They have only made the knockouts once, and are typically the lowest ranked team in any of the groups they are drawn in. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is no different and they will do very well to take anything from a group involving Poland and Mexico as well as the pre-tournament favourites.

Who will win this tie?

Argentina, easily. They have a hugely motivated Lionel Messi playing in probably his final FIFA World Cup, as well as a host of players who have bedded into a solid unit. Under Lionel Scaloni they have been solid and consistent, and even won the Copa America – their first trophy since the early 1990s – in Brazil, beating the Selecao in the Final itself.

They come here in hot form, having made a huge impression including a beating of Italy in the ‘Finalissimo’ game that matched them up with the European champions. Argentina are nifty, aggressive, crafty, and technically sound. In short, they bring everything to the table that Saudi usually struggle to deal with.

This should be a healthy opening win for Argentina, setting up a run.