As Anfield explodes with Liverpool in seventh heaven and Mo Salah becomes Liverpool’s all-time Premier League goalscorer, I discuss all the weekend’s biggest talking points.
1. The Magnificent Seven
Eight short days ago Harry Maguire launched the Carabao Cup trophy into the Wembley skies and Manchester United fans lauded a new dawn. But football can be a very strange game. As Henry Winter so eloquently put it: “from Carabao to 7-up in 7 days.”
Manchester United made the short trip up the East Lancs road with their tails up, confident of a victory that would cement their progress this season. When the sides last met at this venue Ralf Ragnick lamented that the Red Devils found themselves six years behind their rivals. The build-up to this game centred on how in six months they had overhauled that gap.
But come twenty minutes past six on Sunday evening, following ninety minutes of football inside a white-hot Anfield cauldron, Liverpool had fired in seven goals without reply and, since joining the Reds, Mo Salah had now accumulated more yellow cards for goal celebrations against United than United have scored goals against Liverpool, in so doing becoming Liverpool’s all time Premier League goal scorer. A strange old game indeed…
Liverpool to finish in the top four @ Evs
2. Smith makes his point
With Owen Farrell’s well-documented struggles against Wales, it came as a surprise to see Marcus Smith axed from England’s training squad over the Six Nations break this weekend.
Despite it being his first Premiership start since October, it was no surprise to see Smith orchestrating proceedings at Twickenham as Quins marched to a rampant 40-5 success over the Chiefs. His excellent kicking further magnified the spotlight on Farrell’s struggles and will have provided Steve Borthwick with much food for thought ahead of the visit of France on Saturday.
3. The rain dance
You wouldn’t blame Jon Pullin Cheltenham’s clerk of the course, if for the last few weeks he had resorted to all kinds of weird and wonderful rituals to coax rain from the skies. With only 10mm falling since January 15th, there were fears that the unforgiving ground conditions would present significant challenges ahead of the festival.
But, the weather gods have clearly heeded his prayers. Now the forecast indicates that at least 22m will fall before the opening day of the meeting, with more coming throughout the week. It may not sound like music to racegoers ears, but trainers the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland will be breathing audible sighs of relief.
The predicted wet weather will favour those who enjoy the soft ground. A name that springs to mind is Love Envoi, a winner every time there has been soft or heavy in the going description, could she be the one to upset Honeysuckle’s grand farewell in the Mares Hurdle?
Love Envoi to win the Mares Hurdle @ 9-2
4. Off the bridle
In the past few weeks Arsenal have pulled off two remarkable comeback victories. Their late goals secured the points at Villa Park and they were at it again in ‘Teta time’ on Saturday with a goal from an unlikely source in Reiss Nelson.
Memories of the Emirates as a quiet and fractious place to play football have been banished as the team and fans rejoiced in an outpouring of emotion and passion as Nelson’s shot hit the net.
There is no doubting that Arteta has his team fired up. The way they roared back to seal victory against the Cherries was thrilling and nerve wracking in equal measure. They were all heart, and have been for some weeks, which begs the question: as the winning post looms into view, are Arsenal off the bridle too soon?
Arsenal to win the title @ 10-11
5. Red letter day
It was business as usual for Red Bull in the Bahrain Grand Prix who filled the first two places on the podium with a minimum of fuss, and the manner of their success suggested it would be foolish to bet against them regaining their title come the end of the season.
However, despite the Red Bull dominance, the talk of the track was one Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has not been regularly seen on the podium since 2013, standing there only four times in the last decade.
He now has a car to match his talents and his comeback drive from fifth on the grid was truly masterful. Despite that fact, it remains to be seen whether Alonso and Aston Martin can upset the Red Bull hegemony.
Fernando Alonso to win the driver’s championship @ 10-1