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Cheltenham 2019: Gold Cup Favourites

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Cheltenham Festival 2019 is only weeks away and the meeting’s showpiece, the Gold Cup, is shaping up nicely to be the most competitive in years. Last year’s winner Native Winner isn’t the bookies’ favourite to make it back-to-back wins (a feat that last occurred in 2002-4 with Best Mate), with Presenting Percy the leader at this stage. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s leading contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Presenting Percy – 3/1

The Irish front-runner will be looking to make it a hattrick of wins at Cheltenham Festival, with a first in the Gold Cup the main agenda. However, should Presenting Percy not race at Fairyhouse, he’d become the first horse to ever be successful without turning out for any races this season. Owner Philip Reynolds and trainer Pat Kelly have denied there are any problems:

“Presenting Percy is absolutely fine,” said Reynolds.

Continuing: “I’m not sure how many more opportunities Pat’s going to have to have a horse go to the Gold Cup. I certainly doubt I’m going to have many more. So, we just decided to be ultra, ultra-careful, that’s all. Nothing wrong with the horse.”

 

 

Clan des Obeaux – 4/1

Trainer Paul Nicholls will be looking to make it a fifth success in the Gold Cup with this season’s most-improved chaser,Clan des Obeaux. An impressive win in the King George VI Chase at Ascot cemented his claims for a win in next month’s cup.

Native River – 5/1

Who could forget Native River’s win in last year’s Gold Cup? Him and Might Bite were head and shoulders above the rest of the field and made for an epic encounter in the closing minutes. The equine flu outbreak ensured Native River was unable to complete his pre-competition training; however, he didn’t look too bad in the two run-outs at the end of last year.

via ytCropper

Kemboy – 9/1

The odds of Kemboycontinue to shorten and expect them to shorten further if Ruby Walsh decides to ride. The winner of his last four chases, Kemboyis in decent form and is one of Ireland’s best offerings (barring the favourite, of course). However, Willie Mullins is looking to break his Cheltenham hoodoo as runner-up on six occasions, and he’s certainly going big this year with no fewer than four horses in the race.

“There’s Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only, Kemboy and Bellshill — and I’ll probably run as many as I can. Those four can run there, anyway,” Mullins said.

‘It would be nice to win the Gold Cup and we have as good a chance this year as any. You can make cases for them all”.

Bellshill – 10/1

Bellshill won the Irish Gold Cup earlier this month, beating favourite Road to Respect and shouldn’t be underestimated. This form has shortened his odds from the 20s and put the horse ahead of his Irish Gold Cup rival, while strengthening Willie Mullins’ strong hand of racers.

Might Bite – 12/1

Last year’s runner-up, Might Bite has looked a shadow of his former self in the two runs this season, hence only featuring sixth with the bookies. Finishing last at the Chase at Haydock, he came up short in the King George VI Chase at Ascot. Trainer Nicky Henderson believes he can make a timely return to form – and maybe even go one better than 12 months ago.

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Coutinho To Spark Bayern’s Champions League Charge

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As Bayern Munich launches its Champions League campaign against Red Star Belgrade tonight, Bavarian hopes of reclaiming European club football’s top prize to a large extent on the shoulders of Philippe Coutinho.
Following seven semi-final appearances in the last decade, the former Liverpool’s midfielder has been hailed as the man who can take Bayern the extra step in European football’s flagship competition this season.
Last season’s defeat to Liverpool in the last 16 sparked fears that Bayern’s Champions League aura was fading.
The departure of veteran stars such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben seemed to confirm the end of an era, but Coutinho’s arrival on loan from Barcelona has prompted fresh hope that Bayern can be restored as one of the continent’s most feared sides.
“There are always big expectations at Bayern and of course the Champions League is a goal,” said Coutinho at his unveiling in August.
Many believe that the 27-year-old can inspire Bayern to their first Champions League title since 2013.
Earlier this month, his Brazil team-mate and Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson told German newspaper Bild that Coutinho’s arrival put Bayern among the title favourites this season.
Fellow Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso echoed that sentiment in an interview with Sky last month, saying that the loan signings of Coutinho and Croatian winger Ivan Perisic would be decisive for Bayern.
“Before those two arrived, we didn’t necessarily have a team that was capable of winning the treble,” said Tolisso.
“With this team, we can go very far in the Champions League. I think the title is possible.”
Such expectations could weigh heavy on Coutinho, who is looking to reboot his career after struggling to hold down a first-team spot in a year and a half at Barcelona.
His price tag is also a potential burden. Though Bayern paid a loan fee of just 8.5 million euros ($9.5m) to secure his services, German media estimate Coutinho’s wages at around 13 million euros a year after tax, which would make him the highest-paid player in the Bayern dressing room.
“Those things don’t bother me. I want to enjoy being on the pitch, play in big games and win titles. The numbers are just a side note for me,” Coutinho told TideSports source last week.
The Brazilian has charmed the Munich press so far, promising to learn German and speaking in glowing terms of the welcome he has received at Bayern.
He told Sport Bild that he hoped to emulate the sort of form which once made him a fan favourite at Liverpool.
“I have noticed in my first few games for Bayern that football here is very intense like it is in England. Much more so than in Spain and Brazil. That is good for me,” he said.
Coutinho even claimed he could imagine staying longer at Bayern if the club were to win the Champions League this season.
“That is a big dream for me, similar to winning the World Cup,” he said.
Yet it remains early days for Coutinho, who has made just one start for Bayern in three Bundesliga appearances so far.
He played just 10 minutes in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at RB Leipzig, with Thomas Mueller preferred in the starting line-up.
Coach Niko Kovac insisted that Coutinho needed time to recover after returning from Brazil following the international break.
“He only had 72 hours recovery time. He will definitely play in the next few games,” said Kovac.

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Barca Faces Threat Of Stadium Closure

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Barcelona faces the threat of being forced to play a game behind closed doors as their transfer dispute with Atletico Madrid and a deal involving Antoine Griezmann rumbles on.
A year on from seeing the France international pass up the chance to move to Camp Nou, he finally arrived during the summer transfer window of 2019.
Barca agreed to pay the release clause in his contract, with €120 million (£107m/$134m) changing hands between two Liga rivals.
The trigger in Griezmann’s deal at Atletico reached that point on July 1, having previously stood at €200m (£178m/$221m).
Given that Barca had held long-standing interest in the World Cup winner, domestic rivals are not convinced that they waited until mid-summer to get a deal done.
Atletico claim that an agreement was reached with Griezmann when his larger exit clause was in place and are demanding that they receive the €80m (£71m/$88m) difference.
Those demands have fallen on deaf ears in Barcelona, with the Catalan giants adamant that they have done nothing wrong.
It is, however, possible that sanctions will be imposed on them for breaching Spanish football’s disciplinary code.
Juantxo Landaberea, the judge appointed by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), to rule on the case is in the process of completing his findings.
Any action that he proposes will not be binding, with the RFEF committee set to have the final say, but they will be taken into account.
With that in mind, it is possible that Barcelona will be forced to close the doors on Camp Nou for one fixture.
That is considered to be unlikely, with a fine expected to be handed out.
Goal is able to confirm that those are the two options being mulled over and that Barca could get away with things very lightly.
If no ban on supporters is implemented, then the Blaugrana will be asked to pay just €300 to settle the case.
Given the regulations that are said to have been breached, the RFEF charter only allows for small financial penalties to be put in place.
If that course of action is taken, then it will come as little consolation to Atletico.
They stand to lose out on the €80m that they believe they are owed, while Griezmann their most potent attacking weapon across a five-year spell in the Spanish capital is now on the books of a domestic rival.

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Brazil To Clash With Nigeria, Senegal In Singapore

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Brazil has confirmed two friendly matches against Senegal and Nigeria in the October FIFA international window, with both games to be played in Singapore.
The first game will be against 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finalists, Senegal on October 10, the first time the two teams will clash in senior international football.
The second will take place against Nigeria on October 13, and comes against the back-drop of Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr suggesting this week his side needed to face African opposition in the window in order to prepare for the Cup of Nations qualifiers in November.
His words now seem more pointed, though he will surely be happy to test his side against the South American giants.
It is the second meeting between Brazil and Nigeria after a 3-0 friendly win for the Samba stars in Abuja in 2003.
“We chose two of the best African teams because they are high level opponents,” Brazil Football Confederation official, Juninho Paulista told the country’s association website.

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