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Ed Chamberlin: Bale is a star

Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to this weekend's North London derby and the Cheltenham Festival.

Last Updated: 28/02/13 at 10:33 Post Comment

Gareth Bale: Has hit a rich vein of form

Gareth Bale: Has hit a rich vein of form

Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlin looks ahead to this weekend's Premier League action and the Cheltenham Festival.

What a performance that was from Gareth Bale on the Monday Night Football.

His second goal wasn't just a brilliant strike but it was another crucial goal for Tottenham - only Robin van Persie has won more points for his team this season - and must have had punters jumping out of their chairs round the country just as we were in the MNF studio.

Bale is bound to feature heavily in our build up to the North London derby - Tottenham (5/4) v Arsenal (2/1) on Super Sunday and what a game it promises to be.

With Champions League football at stake, it's hard to put a price on the importance of the match.

A win for Spurs would take them seven points clear of Arsenal and within touching distance of a top four finish.

The Gunners simply cannot afford to lose.

Tottenham have not finished above Arsenal for 17 seasons, since Gerry Francis' side claimed seventh spot in 1994-95, five places and 11 points above Stewart Houston's side.

Arsenal have finished above Tottenham in every season under Arsene Wenger - finishing an average of 22 points ahead of their rivals - but that gap has narrowed dramatically over the last few years and was down to one point last season.

Spurs go in to the game in great form - unbeaten in their last 11 PL games (W7, D4) - taking 25 points from last 33 available.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have won three Premier League games in a row, lost just one of the last seven on the road and, surprisingly, have the best away defence in the Premier League having conceded only 11 goals.

It's bound to be tight and most interesting is that eight of the last 12 meetings at White Hart Lane have been drawn.

I can see the draw at 5/2 with Skybet being very popular.

There's usually goals as well. This fixture has seen the joint most goals in PL history (121) along with Everton v Man Utd. Arsenal have scored 71 goals to Tottenham's 50.

It's hard to imagine there won't be goals again on Sunday.

Over 2.5 goals is trading at 4/6 and 2-2 looks tempting at 11/1, while Bale has got the bookmakers running for cover and is a 9/2 chance with Sky Bet to score the first goal of the game and 5/4 to score at any time.

As Sam Allardyce explained on the show on Monday night, he poses so many problems for the opposing manager. They have to guess where he will play. How do you stop him? Does Arsene Wenger have the full-backs and holding midfielders capable of stopping him?

All key questions in an intriguing game. Gary Neville explained on the show how his biggest concern for Arsenal is on the counter-attack. They were vulnerable on the counter-attack to Aston Villa so imagine the damage Bale and co. could do.

It promises to be a fascinating afternoon.

We'll be live from 1pm on Sky Sports 1HD and in Sky 3D.

Horse Racing

I keep being asked at various football grounds what my best bet for the Cheltenham Festival is. Alex Hammond in the Charity race on Day Three is often my reply but if they send Sizing Europe to the Ryanair Chase, that will be my main investment of the week.

Un Atout and The New One remain my only ante-post investments so far but as soon as Skybet go non-runner money back on the Ryanair, I will be backing Sizing Europe.

This horse has been sensational around Cheltenham over the years.

Three wins at the track include an Arkle and a Champion Chase and could easily have been more.

I think he would have retained his title last year if they'd have had to jump the final fence. I also think he would have won the 2008 Champion Hurdle if his back had not gone wrong at the bottom of the hill.

I remember backing the horse all that winter to win the Champions Hurdle and watching the race with Sky Bet's Dale Tempest on the grass in front of the stands and was thinking the mortgage was about to be paid off as he cruised to the front coming down the hill with Andrew McNamara motionless.

That race was a choker but he has produced so many great days since then and he's looked far from finished and as good as ever this season.

If he's not the best jumper in training, then he's certainly the best jumper round Cheltenham.

His round of jumping in the 2011 Champion Chase was poetry in motion.

I love backing Cheltenham specialists at the Festival and what's more the drying weather looks like producing Sizing Europe's ideal ground too.

With the possibility that the rivals I see as his biggest dangers, Cue Card and First Lieutenant, go for the Champion Chase and Gold Cup, Sky Bet's 5/1 is worth taking once they go non-runner no bet.

Talking of the Gold Cup I remain very keen on the chance of another old friend who did us a great turn in the RSA last year, Bobs Worth.

I'm hearing positive reports from Seven Barrows and will be backing him on the day and in-running as I think he'll out-battle any challenger up the hill.

There's no point backing Bobs Worth at around 3/1 now as I think he'll go off bigger on the day and I can even see the Irish steaming in and sending Sir Des Champs off favourite.


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