It’s only early February, but that doesn’t mean it’s too soon a Fergie moan about fixture congestion. This time it’s not about fixture congestion per se, more a grumble about the scheduling of Manchester United’s game with Everton tomorrow so close to their Champions League Round of 16 first leg clash with Real Madrid on Wednesday. Yes, that’s three days and yes the United players do that a lot of the time.
Old Trafford’s Dark Lord isn’t happy that the match against the Toffees has been bumped back to be Sunday’s late kick-off with Real looming midweek. Even by Fergie standards, this feels a little precious, especially considering they’ve got three days, an array of sports scientists and nutritionists at the players’ disposal to manage their physical condition and … oh yeah … it’s not as if they work down the mines for a living.
‘We’re not giving our teams a chance to be successful in Europe,’ said Ferguson, blindly ignoring the fact English clubs have reached the Champions League final in seven of the eight last Champions League finals, winning three and all in an era when Barcelona have consistently been the world’s dominant force. ‘It’s pointless complaining about these things all the time,’ he later added to round off his blast of irony he didn’t seem to notice.
Despite throwing away a vital two points against Everton in this fixture last season, United are the 7/10 favourites for Sunday’s game. And if Wayne Rooney scores the last goal against Everton Paddy Power will refund all losing First/Last Goalscorer, Correct Score & Scorecast singles on the match.
Ireland v England is the big game of the weekend and you can read Jerry Flannery’s straight-talking and very amusing take on the game here.
Yesterday Ireland named the same team that started their victory over Wales in Cardiff whilst England named a team with some striking similarities to last week. Stuart Lancaster’s selection was something of a surprise with the head coach resisting the temptation to bring Manu Tuilagi back into the first XV, instead leaving the Twelvetrees/Barritt partnership at centre. James Haskell has returned to the side, replacing the injured Ben Morgan in the back row.
We’ve got a clash of Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders at Leopardstown today in the Hennessy Gold Cup. Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs do battle once again in the three mile Grade One. Although the Willie Mullins’ trained Sir Des Champs is rated the more likely of the pair to land the Gold Cup in March, Peter Casey’s Flemenstar is the narrow favourite in today’s contest. The useful Bog Warrior, Quel Esprit and Joncol make up the rest of the five runner field and despite having shown plenty of ability in the past, they’re not considered to have much of a chance on this occasion against their classy rivals.
Leopardstown have issued the all important going report for the day ahead and it’s pretty much what everyone had been expecting. It’s soft the heavy on the chase course and soft to yielding on the hurdle course.