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5 things you need an opinion on today – including Mario Balotelli, the decline of Spurs and the latest Grand National betting news

by Paddy Power Admin | April 10, 2012
Mario Balotelli

Another sorry mess... Mario Balotelli apologises to Alex Song on Sunday
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

#1: Another sorry mess for Mario

Few could have predicted the impact Mario Balotelli would have had on the Premier League. Not least, Alex Song’s shin. Balotelli is set to miss Manchester City’s next three matches after his latest sending off, at the Emirates on Sunday. He could face a further charge and ban for the studs-up lunge on Song which went unpunished.

Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, said on Sunday that Balotelli would not play again this season and that he would “probably” try to sell the 21-year-old this summer. Balotelli has now said sorry and added that his apologies were directed “especially to Roberto Mancini, who I admire and wish well”.

Either way, it’s hard to see City catching United now, Balotelli staying at City for another season, or his team-mates inviting him round for a game of Twister any time soon.

#2: Has Harry blown Spurs’ Champions League chances?

Harry Redknapp had a bank holiday shocker. Spurs lost 2-1 at home to Norwich after which the favourite for the England job admitted: “Finishing above Arsenal would be lovely but it’s going to be tough now.” Since Fabio Capello quit, Spurs have lost four games, drawn three and only won twice. Don’t mention the curse of the Curse of the England job.

Of course, it’s hard to recommend betting against your team, but even Spurs fans must be doubting they can overhaul their London rivals now. Arsenal are on 61 points having played one game less, 32, than Spurs.

#3: Soft going At Aintree leads to some firm favourites

The picture for the Aintree Grand National this Saturday got a lot muddier over the weekend as the going was changed due to wet conditions. Heavy rain on Sunday night and Monday morning has caused the racecourse to issue a ‘bring your wellies’ warning, or as it’s more commonly known, changing the going to ‘soft, good to soft in places’.

It’s a move that brought a surge of support for horses who couldn’t be happier in the mud if they had a snout, curly tail and dislike of breakfast rolls. Gold Cup winner, Synchronised won’t mind the soft conditions underfoot and there’s also been support for fellow mudlovers, Junior, West End Rockers, Cappa Bleu, Own His Own, Giles Cross and Seabass. It’s not going to suit a few of them however, most notably defending champion Ballabriggs, Chicago Grey and anyone with a skirt that goes below the knee.

Here’s the Grand National of 2001, which is one of the muddier and most chaotic Nationals in recent history:

#4: It’s rather difficult to predict the winners of golf’s Major tournaments

All eyes were on Tiger Woods (36) and Rory McIlroy (22) when the Masters tournament kicked off at Augusta on Thursday. By Sunday the pair received little more than the odd glance as they failed to offer a weekend challenge.

Three-time Master winner Phil Mickelson (41) flickered in to contention for a period, as did many more recognisable names, but in the end a man named Bubba won the 2012 Master Championship.

He may have the first name of an inbred hill-billy with seven toes on each foot but the less fancied Bubba Watson (33) has joined the list of 205 players who have won at least one Major.

What does Bubba’s win tell us? Basically that picking the winner for a Major tournament is rather difficult and the favourites often struggle to live up to pretournament hype. Can Bubba kick on and win a second Major this year? How about Rory and Tiger?

#5: Ulster are in a Heineken Cup semi-final and somehow Edinburgh are too!

It became clear over the weekend that this year’s Heineken Cup competition wasn’t going to adhere to such arbitrary qualifications as ability and quality. Thanks in large part to what we here at Over the line have labelled the “upside down/twilight zone/Alice In Wonderland” side of the draw.

After some unexpected results on Saturday and Sanday, one of Edinburgh or Ulster is going to contest this year’s Heineken Cup final in Twickenham. Both sides are now just one win away from collecting a runners-up medal.

Which means Leinster now only have to defeat Clermont Auvergne to defend their crown! Don’t they? This isn’t going to be another Euro 2004, except for rugby and in 2012, is it? Are Edinburgh rugby’s Greece?

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