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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Soothsayer

At the last moment, some Christmas cheer: the betting predictions are beginning to come good. The 6–1 thrashing Manchester United handed out to the Saints will please everybody that had a flutter on the game just before Christmas. My joint charity bet with the association of real soccer enthusiasts on Rince Ri for the King George VI race on Dec. 26 was a non-runner so we put the cash on our second choice, Florida Pearl, which promptly won the race at 12.00 – 11/1. So there is 7,600 rubles on its way to charity. I feel my luck is changing for 2002.

Next week will see the start of a regular charity bet to run the whole year, with the winnings (and there will be some!) going to Downside Up, a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with Down syndrome and their families in Russia.

Manchester United finished 2001 by winning its last seven matches, scoring 23 goals and conceding only six to show it is still the true champion elect. Hopefully there are many of you who took my advice after United's defeat by West Ham and backed it to win the league at 9.00 – 8/1 as the team is now only 2.10 – 11/10 favorite. Backing Ruud Van Nistelrooy to be the Premier League's top scorer on his current form at 3.50 – 5/2 is a good bet.

This weekend's highlights are both Sunday: the match at Highbury where Arsenal entertains Liverpool, and in Spain, where Real Madrid hosts Valencia.

Arsenal is getting a reputation as the comeback king, as in recent weeks it has come from behind three times to win crucial games. Against Liverpool it will not be an easy ride but beating the Reds recently at Anfield, the Londoners must have the psychological advantage, as the wheels on the Owen and Co. train seem to have definitely come off. Back an Arsenal win at 1.50 – 1/2.

Real Madrid went back to the top of the Spanish Premier League last week by disposing of Deportivo. Madrid is a team benefiting from the Champions League break, and I can see it strengthening its position at the top by beating third-place Valencia, so let's get real and back Real at 1.50 – 1/2.

The U.S. picks also both won before Christmas, New England (-2.5) beat Miami 20-13 after leading 20-3 at the half; San Francisco beat Philadelphia 13-3 and its defense proved the previous week's shutout of Miami was no fluke and that the 49ers are all-rounders.

Finally, we reach the NFL playoffs with the Rams as hot favorites with the bookies at 2.20 – 6/5 to win the Superbowl, but they are no Lakers and should be opposed at such short odds. The two best value bets are the 49ers and Baltimore, both at 26.00 – 25/1, despite being on the road.

Baltimore's Brian Billick and Ray Lewis know how to get this team pumped up for the big games, as its back-to-back wins in Pittsburgh and Tennessee proved this year. The Ravens look far better value than Pittsburgh at 4.00 – 3/1 for the Superbowl, Pittsburgh having lost to Baltimore at home two years in a row.

San Francisco, the most improved team this year and maybe future Superbowl champion in the near future, showed character in learning quickly from its mistakes. A defense widely considered to be mediocre at the start of the season has had three shutouts in its last six games.

The 2002 kitty looks a lot healthier, now standing at $145 from the original $200, and could grow again this week.

EUROPEAN





Manchester United (1.67 – 4/6) to win at Southampton. Everybody was writing off Manchester United after losing its sixth game of the season, but then the red army started to march, and now it is breathing down the neck of the Premier League leaders. If Leeds falters at St. James Park like it did at Elland Road and Manchester United wins at the Saints' new ground, St. Mary's, the red army could be leading the table for the first time this season.

This is my bet of the week!

UNITED STATES





Tampa Bay (+3.5) to win at Philadelphia. This is a close one and probably the hardest to call, but I side with Tampa Bay as it seems to win the important matchups, especially in the last few games.

Oakland (-4.5) to win at home to the Jets. Jon Gruden will have his boys pumped for this game and New York's lack of stomach for the playoffs could be its downfall.

San Francisco (+3.5) to win at Green Bay. The weather could be a factor in this game, but expect the all-round talent of San Francisco to overcome the legendary Brett Favre.

Baltimore (+2.5) to win at Miami. Ray Lewis is set to batter the Dolphin, Jay Fiedler, again and again. Miami is just too weak-willed when it comes to the playoffs, whereas the Ravens will be flying high.

$50 Single

Man United to win 1.67 – 4/6

(Sun. k.o. 5 p.m.)

Possible Winnings -- $84

Frank Caruana is the Manager of Sportland. Contact him at Soothsayer@imedia.ru.