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    Why the Championship Has the Edge Over the Premiership

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    Neil Clark
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    The Premiership gets the hype, but once again this season, it's the Championship, the second tier of English football, which is proving to be the more exciting division. Just look at the league tables.

    In the Championship, just five points separate the team in seventh, Nottingham Forest, from the team in 17th, Aston Villa. The team in 19th, Bolton Wanderers, is only nine points off a playoff position. As QPR showed in October, string a few wins together and you can go from the lower reaches to the promotion challenging positions in next to no time.

    A further sign of how competitive the league is, is that the leaders, Sheffield United, have already lost four games. No side has lost fewer than two matches. Compare this to the EPL. Despite having played five fewer matches, the gap between the side in 7th, Watford and the team in 17th, Cardiff is 14 points. There is a five point difference between the team in 12th, Leicester, and the team in 13th, West Ham. The top three in the Premiership, Man City, Chelsea, and Liverpool remain unbeaten after ten matches.  

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    Another contrast is in the number of draws. Because the difference between the sides isn't so great in the Championship, you get a lot more draws, well worth bearing in mind when it comes to match betting. The sides that are second and third in the Championship, Middlesbrough, and Leeds have each drawn six of their fifteen games. Notts Forest and Birmingham have drawn over half their matches. No team in the league has drawn fewer than two games.

    In the Premiership, by contrast, draws are rarer — reflecting the bigger gap between the ability of the teams. If you look at the Premiership league table — there are no surprise names in the top five. It's only when you get to sixth and seventh, Bournemouth and Watford, that you see names that you wouldn't have expected. 

    Which puts the achievement of Leicester City, in winning the EPL in 2015-6, into proper perspective. The tragic helicopter crash last Saturday, which claimed the life of Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others reminded us of that incredible feat which is unlikely to be repeated for a very long time. We may not see a new 'Leicester City' winning the title in 2018-9, but the Premiership badly needs Bournemouth and Watford, this year's two surprise packages, to hang on in there in the top seven this season. To increase the excitement, it also needs the top three to start losing a few games- and not just against each other.

    Breeders Cup Not as Easy as it Might Look

    This weekend's big event in the world of horse-racing is the Breeders' Cup, fourteen Group One races attracting some of the best Flat horses in the world to Churchill Downs, Kentucky, USA.  Dual Arc winner Enable will attempt to make history by becoming the first Arc winner to win at the meeting, in the Breeders' Cup Turf, while recent Champions Day winner Roaring Lion goes for the Classic in what will be his final race.

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    The racing will be terrific,  but it's never the easiest meeting for punters as for European horses it comes at the end of a long season, and it's sometimes hard to weigh up form with US runners and know just how good they are. Big priced winners are quite common, so make sure you include a few US-trained outsiders in your portfolio as you go through the card.

    In the UK, attention turns to the jumps with meetings at Wetherby,  Ascot, Ayr and Down Royal in Northern Ireland.  The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (2.40 pm) has lost some of its lustre with the defection of former King George winner Thistlecrack, and the probable absence of last year's winner Bristol de Mai, due to the lack of rain. Three runners entered at the five-day stage who do have winning form on the ground are Black Corton, who did nothing but improve last season under Bryony Frost, and  Double Shuffle and Virgilio, who both hold entries at Ascot.

    Five of Black Corton's thirteen chase wins have come in either October or November, so this is clearly the time of the year to catch him.

    At Ascot, Rock on Rocky has gone up a lot in the weights but did run very well on his only previous course visit,  and could provide some each-way value in the 2.25.

    Football Preview and Scoreline Predictions

    The top clash of the weekend is at the Emirates on Saturday tea-time when fourth-place Arsenal entertains second-placed Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp's men remain unbeaten in the League, while Arsenal haven't lost since August and so a score-draw (last year the fixture ended 3-3), may be the way to play it betting-wise. Elsewhere, sixth-placed Bournemouth, who have won five of their seven home games, host eighth-placed Manchester United, while Leicester City- after the traumatic week they've had- will have all neutrals rooting for them as they visit Cardiff.

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    Surely Jamie Vardy and his teammates will rise to the occasion and get a win for the late and much-loved club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.  In the SPL, Celtic will be hoping to close the gap on leaders Hearts to just one point with a victory at home on Saturday, while third-placed Kilmarnock, who held Rangers to a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the week, host Aberdeen on Sunday.

    Here are my scoreline predictions. You can leave yours in the comments section below.

    FRIDAY NIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: ASTON VILLA 1 BOLTON 0

    EPL:

    ARSENAL 2 LIVERPOOL 2

    BOURNEMOUTH 2 MANCHESTER UTD 2

    CARDIFF 1 LEICESTER CITY 3

    EVERTON 1 BRIGHTON 0

    NEWCASTLE 0 WATFORD 1

    WEST HAM 1 BURNLEY 0

    WOLVES 0 TOTTENHAM 0

    CHELSEA 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 1

    MAN CITY 4 SOUTHAMPTON 0

    HUDDERSFIELD 1 FULHAM 1

    SPL:

    CELTIC 2 HEARTS 1

    HAMILTON 0 LIVINGSTONE 1

    HIBS  1 ST JOHNSTONE 1

    MOTHERWELL 0 DUNDEE 0

    ST MIRREN 0 RANGERS 2

    KILMARNOCK 2 ABERDEEN 1

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    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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