Chelsea couldn’t have foreseen such an unexpected result on Wednesday night at the Etihad, where Sunderland drew 2-2 with Manchester City to surely put the Premier League title beyond the Citizens.

Jose Mourinho’s men will know that by winning all their remaining games they can steal the league from Liverpool’s grasp. Those two face off on the 27th April and the league crown will almost certainly be decided at Anfield that day.

Chelsea captain John Terry is focused on another Premier League title

Chelsea captain John Terry is focused on another Premier League title

The Blues look to maintain the pressure on Liverpool when they welcome bottom-of-the-table Sunderland to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The London club have won 15 and drawn only two of their 17 home games this season and Mourinho’s record of never having lost at the Bridge in the Premier League looks set to continue.

Saturday’s hosts have won 17 of their last 18 Premier League encounters against the Black Cats and Gus Poyet’s squad have scored just 31 league goals all season – the Premier League third-lowest. They look set for Championship football next season, despite that encouraging midweek result. .

The Black Cats have also not netted in six of their last nine Premier League games at the Bridge and face a side who have the Premier League best defensive record   ̶ conceding just 24 goals this campaign and keeping clean sheets in over half their home games.

Unsurprisingly, Mourinho’s men are firm favourites, with Chelsea/Sunderland trading at 2.1-2.3. There’s not massive appeal in buying, considering Chelsea made hard work of beating ten-man Swansea last week and the confidence the visitors will have after a point at City.

A better bet may be selling total goals at 3.1. Sunderland are unlikely to cause many problems for the Blues back-line, but it might take a while for the home team to find their rhythm and a low-scoring win for the hosts looks the most likely outcome.

Everton went in search of an eighth straight win on Wednesday, but fell short as Crystal Palace earned a surprise victory at Goodison Park to almost seal their Premier League status and practically end the Toffees’ top-four ambitions.

David Moyes returns to the club he used to mange for the first time with his Manchester United side on Sunday and they should be backed to continue their good form.

Heavy defeats to Liverpool and Man City aside, the Red Devils have won their other five most recent games, scoring 15 goals – including eight in their last two – and conceding just one.

Everton’s confidence will have taken a big knock after that defeat and United look primed to take advantage. Selling the hosts at 0.05 looks the best bet.

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What an epic two weeks of sport. If you didn’t find anything to tickle your fancy then you’re in the wrong game. We had the world’s greatest horse race in the shape of the Grand National, one of golf’s most coveted prizes, the Masters, and spattered in between were thrilling Premier League games and top-class Champions League action.

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

Manchester United dared to dream after going 1-0 up at Bayern Munich but that only made the hosts angry and they quickly wrought revenge, coming back to win 3-1. Chelsea had it all to do against Paris St Germain, but Jose Mourinho masterminded a clinical 2-0 win to keep Blues’ hopes of winning a third successive European title on track. Domestically, Liverpool took a giant step to their first league title since 1990 by beating Manchester City to set us up for a nail-biting finish.

Last time our competition question was how many of the 40 runners would finish the Grand National. Mr PN was the only one to guess 18 so congratulations, a free £100 total goals bet is coming your way. This week, email themole@sportingindex.com your prediction for total goals in next Wednesday’s mouth-watering Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. The last three meetings between the pair have all finished 2-1, with Munich winning two of them.

GOOD TRADE

Trying to find the winner of the Grand National really is like trying to find a needle in a haystack these days and this year’s renewal was one of the most open for years. Sporting Index treated punters with an enhanced 100 Race Index that awarded points right down to seventh place. Pineau De Re had run well over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival last month, but still had a lot to prove. Kudos to those that took a chance on the 11-year-old at 8 on the index as you scooped a massive 92 times your stake. He streaked home five lengths clear to give his former GP-turned-trainer Dr Richard Newland a winner of the globe’s most famous race with his first runner in the contest.

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

If the excitement of The Masters at Augusta can’t tempt you into parting with some of your hard-earned, not much will. Bubba Watson had won the Green Jacket two years ago but had flopped under pressure last season. Many of you were willing to forgive the charismatic leftie for that and he was bought at 13 on the 100 Leaderboard Index. Some of you also took the traders up on selling him at 28 in the Finishing Positions market. In the end, he recorded an easy three-shot victory to make supporters very rich (one client had a £76 buy at 13 returning £6,612).

BAD TRADE

We’ve all had those days where nothing has come off and you think the easiest way to get your money back is to lump on some ‘certainties’. And you don’t get bigger bankers in football than Bayern Munich at home and Barcelona up against some minnows in La Liga. The Germans, who had recently wrapped the Bundesliga up in record time, were trading at 1.2-1.4 to see off Borussia Dortmund, who were 20 points behind in second.

Amazingly, the underdogs pulled off a shock 3-0 win to leave buyers scratching their heads in disbelief. Barcelona went to lowly Granada, who’d lost their last three, easily expected to justify a supremacy spread of 1.8-2. Incredibly they too lost – we hope no-one was on a very expensive multiple.

Not everyone punting on the golf was a winner. There were a number of very high-profile failures, most notably Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Their finishing positions were sold at 23 and 24 but both men missed the cut and made up a painful 57 – losses of over 30 times seller’s original stakes.

Sporting Index had their usual array of Masters specials and one that got a lot of attention was the number of players who would finish under par. Pitched at 26-28, many of you bought, no doubt thinking a repeat of 2010, when a massive 34 beat par, was on the cards. It wasn’t. Just seven players finished under.


Above: This Barcelona youth player isn’t half bad.
Extra: Carlin Isles, rugby’s fastest man and a cracking football fail.

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With the emergence of online betting, the ‘Sport of Kings’ has attracted new audiences who, rather than standing trackside studying the form guide, would prefer to place their bets from the comfort of their own home. Spread betting on horse racing has become a popular way of adding excitement to the big race but whilst a new type of punter is becoming immersed in the world of horse race betting, the history of the sport may be somewhat of an alien concept.

There is evidence that horse racing became a professional sport in this country as early as the 12th century, when the English knights returned from the Crusades with Arab horses. This is the breed of horse that is used in horse racing today.

Records show that racing took place in that period, at Smithfield in London and at the famous Roodeye track in the centre of Chester. As racing became more and more popular through the ages, the breeding of racehorses developed with the continued imports of Arabian stallions.

Every thoroughbred horse in this country now, can have his or her pedigree traced back to the three Arabian stallions, Godolphin Arabian, Byerley Turk, and Darley Arabian who bred with British mares, back in the late 17th and early 18th century.

From the early 1800’s only horses that could be called “Thoroughbreds” were allowed to race in this country professionally, and had to be listed in the General Stud Book which is still an important item today.

Horse Racing is also known as the ‘Sport of Kings’. The nickname originated from the association of James I with the sport. The monarch had a palace built near a little known village called Newmarket. This town was beginning to become prosperous, especially after a neighbouring village called Exning caught a plague, and all week-end markets had to be moved to another nearby town which was called New market.

Newmarket became the home of organised horse racing in Britain, and during the reigns of Charles I and Charles II continued to grow in popularity especially with the masses. Most races were between two horses on private courses or open fields, with normally a ‘Silver Bell’ given to the winner.

Under the reign of Queen Anne, horse racing started to involve several horses running against one another in races. Spectators were finally and publically allowed to place horse racing bets, and racecourses were founded throughout Britain. This included Ascot which was founded by Queen Anne in 1711.

In 1750 horse racing’s elite met at Newmarket to form the Jockey Club. They wrote a comprehensive set of rules for horse racing and a code of conduct for horserace meetings throughout the land. In other words the Jockey Club were to oversee and control horse racing in England. This became the first regulated sport in this country.

The late 18th century saw the certain races becoming the ultimate tests for racehorses. These were known as ‘Classic’ races and are still run today. The five races were for three-year-old horses. The oldest classic was the St Leger which was founded around 1776, but the most famous and world renowned race is the Derby.

The story of how the race was named is that Sir Charles Bunbury and the Earl of Derby tossed a coin for the naming of the race. The Earl of Derby won the toss, but by coincidence Sir Charles Bunbury won the inaugural running of the Derby in 1780 when owning the winner Diomed.

Technological innovations in the 19th century led to horse racing becoming the most popular sport in the country with millions of people watching. There was a marked increase in gambling and also in newspaper coverage. On course bookmakers had to adhere to a code of conduct from the Jockey Club which included discipline and integrity, which ensured the sport continued to prosper.

The famous Admiral Rouse produced the first form of handicapping horses in races. This was supposed to result in all horses crossing the winning line together! Some of his methods of handicapping are still used today.

Horse racing was one of only two sports that continued during both world wars. After the Second World War, technical innovations such as the ‘Photo Finish’ (1947) and starting stalls for flat races (1965) were introduced as horse racing continued as a thriving industry. In 1961 betting away from racecourses became legalised as the first ‘Betting Shop’ on the high street opened. This prompted the immortal quote from Scottish bookmaker John Banks ‘that betting shops were a licence to print money’. It however dramatically increased the volume of betting turnover. Today, online horse race betting continues to draw new audiences to the sport.

Ruler Of The World wins the 2013 Derby

Ruler Of The World wins the 2013 Derby

In the 1950’s and 60’s television brought horse racing into the nation’s living rooms and it is now only second to football as the most widely televised sport.

There are now 60 racecourses in this country, and turnover on the Derby at Epsom in June, can reach nearly 50 million pounds.

The highlight for many in the racing calendar is the ‘Cheltenham National Hunt Festival in March. This is racing over steeplechases and hurdles, and continues for four days, the highlight being the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The sport developed from the English and Irish past time of foxhunting, when hunters would test the speed of their mounts during the cross-country chase. Organised steeplechase racing began in 1830 and the most famous steeplechase in the world is the Grand National which started in 1839 and is run at Aintree in Liverpool.

Hurdle racing is often used for training horses that will later compete in steeplechases. Point to Point races are for amateurs and are run on over 100 courses throughout the British Isles. Originally run across the country from one point to another (hence the name) they are often found on farmlands with built-in fences.

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The year was 1891 when the concept of basketball first came about. Dr James Naismith, who was the physical education professor at Springfield College, Massachusetts wanted to ensure that his pupils maintained high levels of fitness during the severe East Coast winters.

Within the gymnasium, Naismith nailed a peach basket to a 10 foot raised track and provided a soccer ball so his students could ‘bounce pass’ towards the fruit basket and attempt to score.

The peach baskets were used until 1906 and were then replaced with metal hoops and backboards which provided a simple solution to the previous problem of spectators interfering with shots from the balcony.

Nine players participated in the first official game of basketball which took place at the YMCA gym in New York in 1892. The teams were separated by just the one basket made during the game.

Two years later, Albert Spalding developed the very first basketball which soon became the official ball of the sport. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the colour of the ball changed from brown to orange, so that it was more visible to players and spectators alike.

By 1896 colleges around the United States had formed enough teams in order to compete in the first competition and by 1898 the first professional basketball league had been devised. Rules were continually developed and adapted, under the watchful eye of Naismith, including one that allowed players to shoot with one hand.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan scores a slam dunk

Basketball legend Michael Jordan scores a slam dunk

Basketball became an official Olympic event at the 1936 Berlin Games, which ensured that the relatively new sport quickly spread far and wide to other countries. The USA defeated Canada in the first Olympic final and have since gone on to win all but four titles.

In 1967, slam dunks were penalised, but just nine years later the scoring method was legalised again. New York born Michael Jordan is considered the greatest player in modern history and symbolised the slam dunk.

Jordan dominated the sport in the 1980s and 90s scoring a formidable 32,292 points and picked up the NBA Most Valuable Player award five times during his illustrious career.

Basketball is now ranked the fifth most popular sport in the world with 240-260 million fans. Impressive considering it all started from a peach basket!

 

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There’s not a more fitting way to end the Copa del Rey tomorrow night than with a clash between heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi controls the ball during "El Clasico"

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi controls the ball during “El Clasico”

Their rivalry is legendary and El Clasico is always one of the most anticipated matchups in world football. The pair have already met twice this season with Barcelona triumphant on both occasions – a 2-1 home win and a thrilling 4-3 victory at the Bernabeu last month.

However, that only tells half the story as it’s Madrid who are enjoying a better season than their Catalan opponents. While Atletico Madrid knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League 2-1 last week, Los Blancos survived a fightback from Borussia Dortmund to set up a mouth-watering tie with holders Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

And Barcelona then went to lowly Granada last Saturday and were stunned 1-0. With both Atletico and Real winning, it leaves Barca four points off top spot and the title is now out of their hands.

Madrid warmed up for this final with a 4-0 win over Almeria and this is the fourth year in a row they have faced their oldest foes in this competition. They won the 2010/11 final meeting, before losing in the 2011/12 quarter-final and then winning last year’s semi-final against Gerardo Martino’s side, only to go and lose to neighbours Atletico in the showpiece.

Martino has found himself under pressure after his men’s recent poor form and that look sets to continue against a hungry Madrid team who might welcome back star player Cristiano Ronaldo after a injury-enforced spell on the sidelines. The best bet of the night looks to be selling Barcelona/Real Madrid at 0.

The Madrid hierarchy famously don’t tolerate failure and, with Atletico holding the advantage in La Liga and a tough European assignment against Munich, this trophy is Carlo Ancelotti’s best chance of winning silverware and perhaps keeping his job.

I’d also sell the time of the first match goal at 32. The last six league meetings have all seen goals within the first 22 minutes and there’s been a goal in the first ten minutes in four of those.

Recent cup meetings have been slightly more cautious, but both teams will be looking to pounce early, particularly the formidable trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Ronaldo, who’ve hit 87 of their club’s seasonal goals total of 139 so far.

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