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Ed Chamberlin: Mersey beat

Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to the Merseyside derby, the 2000 Guineas and the Giro d'Italia in his latest blog.

Last Updated: 02/05/13 at 10:16 Post Comment   

Carragher: Set for his final Merseyside derby before joining Sky Sports

Carragher: Set for his final Merseyside derby before joining Sky Sports

Football

Great news this week that Jamie Carragher will be joining the Sky Sports team. He's going to be an excellent addition and I'm really looking forward to working with him next season.

On Super Sunday this weekend he will be on the other end of the camera and appearing in a Merseyside derby for the final time. He has played in more League derbies (26) than any other Liverpool player - one more than Steven Gerrard - and he will be determined to make his final one a winner.

Liverpool need a win because they are five points behind Everton and in danger of finishing behind their Merseyside rivals in successive seasons for the first time in 50 years and the first time in successive top-flight seasons since 1935-37.

That will concern Liverpool fans, as will the absence of their star striker. I spoke to Carragher after the Chelsea game and he was worried about the effect Luis Suarez's absence might have on the team. Surprisingly they have now played two away games without Suarez this season, at West Ham and Newcastle, and scored nine goals.

We start at 1pm and it should be a really good Merseyside derby as Everton remain in excellent form.

After that it's all about the fascinating race for the top four as Chelsea visit the newly-crowned Champions, Manchester United. I'll be presenting Super Sunday from Old Trafford where Chelsea will play their 65th game of the season and, depending on how Arsenal and Spurs fare on Saturday, perhaps one of their most important.

After the game it will be a dash down to London to prepare for Monday Night Football. Paulo Di Canio and Sunderland feature on the show again this week hoping for a better performance against Stoke than they produced in the 6-1 mauling at Villa this week.

Horse racing

Classic time at Newmarket this week. Saturday's 2,000 Guineas doesn't set my pulse racing but it's interesting nonetheless and on paper looks a head-to-head between Dawn Approach and Toronado.

Dawn Approach is the stand-out horse on form but I never bought in to the hype last season and it will be fascinating to see him in the paddock to judge if he's progressed physically.

His form was undeniably impressive last season but he never made it look that easy and even in the Dewhurst there was a moment when I thought he was beaten. Those taking the very short prices are are unlikely to have that smooth a ride and I have in the back of my mind that others may have progressed past him.

Many believe that includes Richard Hannon's Toronado and the connections' enthusiasm is infectious. However, this is a much tougher test than in the Craven and his price has collapsed.

The front two are clearly going to be hard to beat but the value has been well and truly squeezed out of both.

The mystery horse is Mars. He's all hype but we've been here before with his connections. I remember when Kingsbarns won at Doncaster in brilliant style and I was immediately told "just wait until you see Mars". We've only ever seen him once and he could easily be another superstar but it's surely asking a lot, even from Aidan O'Brien, to go straight from a seven furlong maiden at Dundalk to win the Guineas.

The horse I still like is Richard Fahey's Garswood. Like Mars, we still don't know how good this horse is. When he won the Free Handicap his pricked his ears in front and did nothing. There could be plenty more in the tank.

The way Garswood travels I think the better the race, the better he will be and I'm hopeful the extra furlong will suit him. I have backed Garswood each-way at 20s.

Giro d'Italia

Cycling's first classic Grand Tour also starts on Saturday. Sir Bradley Wiggins is going for yet more glory in the Giro d'Italia.

For the first time in a decade the race does not begin with a time trial, instead opening with a flat stage round Naples so the first pink jersey could well be claimed by Mark Cavendish.

But who will be in pink three weeks later?

Wiggins is Sky Bet's even money favourite, which looks a very short price for the test that lies ahead. The climbing isn't as brutal as last year but it's still more demanding and "Giro-like" than last year's Tour de France, which, with all its time-trialing and steady climbs, was tailor-made for Wiggins.

The race is likely to be decided in the final week on stages 18-20. Eighteen is a climbing time-trial, while 20's five tough cols, including the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, make it this year's queen stage and will stretch Bradley to the limit.

He is the master Grand Tour rider in the field with by far the best team. Team Sky are in a league of their own at protecting their leader with a suffocating, relentless pace, and Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao will marshall him brilliantly in the mountains. There are enough time-trial miles to keep Wiggins in contention but I worry about him on the steep ascents and evens is as skinny a price as the man himself.

Vincenzo Nibali is many people's fancy at 2/1. He's been in brilliant form winning the Tirreno Adriatico and Giro del Trentino. He dropped Wiggins in the latter but that was because of a mechanical so ignore that.

The worry with Nibali is mental. Wiggins has had the sign over him in the major races. If Nibali was a Premier League team he'd beat Wigan, QPR and Reading with ease but come unstuck when it really matters against the big guns.

Cadel Evans is a big game player and you can never write him off but he does not look the force of old.

The most likely winner is last year's hero, Ryder Hesjedal (8/1). No defending champion has won the Giro since Miguel Indurain in 1993, but Hesjedal has an outstanding chance.

The Canadian's 2013 has followed a similar pattern to last year and arrives in Naples in great shape. He'll be a marked man this time but he's a better and more confident rider. Hesjedal has to go close.

I'll be backing Hesjedal to finish in pink at 8/1 and also having a few quid on rank outsider Stefano Pirazzi to join him on the podium.

Sky Bet's 250/1 looks a big each-way price. Pirazzi is a talented young Italian rider who has been a loose cannon in big races to date. In the Giro last year he was all over the place tactically but was often on the attack and eventually finished second in the mountains classification.

There have been signs of experience improving his tactics and he rode well to finish seventh at Trentino. I'm hopeful he'll ride for the general classification rather than stage glory and in a race that traditionally throws up shocks, Pirazzi is worth chancing at 250/1.


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