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Football betting guide for Dec 29-30

THE BETTING SLIP: Top tips and ones to watch in our gambling guide to the weekend

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UPDATED:

11:37 GMT, 28 December 2012

If the journey through deserted streets into Sportsmail HQ over the past few days is anything to go by, Londoners love getting away during the Christmas holidays.

Chelsea and Tottenham certainly enjoyed jaunts out of the capital on Boxing Day and the pair look in the mood to prosper on their travels once again.

We're at the halfway stage of the season and predicting what will happen in the Premier League is getting harder and harder.

On the road again: Chelsea are at Everton after taking three points from Norwich on Boxing Day

On the road again: Chelsea are at Everton after taking three points from Norwich on Boxing Day

Tony's tenner

Sportsmail's Saturday punter Tony tells us where his hard-earned 10 is going.

After a couple of weeks of being absolutely useless, I’m going for a dead cert and putting a fiver on table-topping Sheffield United to be wining at half-time and full-time against League One basement-boys Hartlepool.

That will get me my money back so I'm also for 3 on DRAW/DRAW at Aston Villa v Wigan and 2 on a penalty to be awarded in the same game.

Sheff Utd – Half-time/Full-time @ Evens (Betfair)

Aston Villa v Wigan – Draw/Draw @ 17/4 (Boylesports)

Penalty in Aston Villa v Wigan @ 21/10 (Paddy Power)

But one thing is for sure: supporters of a team playing in blue will give Rafa Benitez a hard time.

The Chelsea fans unhappy with the Spaniard's appointment have piped down a bit over the past couple of weeks – 14 goals scored in three matches since the Club World Cup has helped – but he's still not a popular man in west London.

Benitez will never be flavour month at Goodison Park either and that is where the interim boss takes his in-form Blues on Sunday afternoon.

The Everton faithful remember Benitez's 'small-club' dig at the Toffees during his time in charge of Merseyside rivals Liverpool.

He was hardly towering over them back then and the gap between his current employers and David Moyes' side is just two points ahead of the live TV showdown.

Everton have won three and drawn four since losing at Reading in mid-November while the defeat to Corinthians in Japan was the only slip-up in Chelsea's last seven.

The hosts would appeal more if Marouane Fellaini was available but with the big Belgian still suspended, Chelsea look too good to ignore at 6/4 (widely available).

Tottenham sit between the pair in fourth place in the table and they also catch the eye after thumping Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Three and easy: Gareth Bale helped himself to a hat-trick as Spurs crushed Aston Villa

Three and easy: Gareth Bale helped himself to a hat-trick as Spurs crushed Aston Villa

Sunderland will fancy their chances against the north Londoners after stunning Manchester City – their third win in four games – but Spurs (11/10 with most bookies) have a flying Gareth Bale in their ranks and five away wins in the Premier League. Only Manchester United boast more.

Add in what is as close to a banker as there is on this week's coupon – League One leaders Sheffield United against bottom club Hartlepool – and Bradford at home to Rochdale.

A tenner on the four returns just over 130 with Coral.

Goals galore

The 'Premier League – best in the world' drum took another beating after the midweek Christmas crackers and we could be in for more of the same this weekend.

Take both teams to score in Arsenal v Newcastle, Everton v Chelsea, Norwich v Man City, QPR v Liverpool and Sunderland v Tottenham for a 12/1 return at Paddy Power.

Quick on the draws

New Nottingham Forest boss Alex McLeish is in for about as warm a welcome as Benitez was given at Chelsea but the Scot can get his point across against Crystal Palace.

Fulham against Swansea, Ross County v Hearts and Morton against Dunfermline also look too close to call.

A 1 yankee costs 11 and two right will get your money back, three a decent return and all four correct brings home 377 (Ladbrokes).

Doing it the hard way: Manchester United were behind three times before Javier Hernandez sunk Newcastle

Doing it the hard way: Manchester United were behind three times before Javier Hernandez sunk Newcastle

Bale offers Real value

Gareth Bale is back at the top of Real Madrid's shopping list after his hat-trick against Aston Villa with the Spanish giants reportedly tabling a 33m bid for the Spurs winger. The Welshman is 7/1 (widely available) to open the scoring against Sunderland and 5/2 (Sportingbet) to score at any time.

Same again

Manchester United came from behind to win for the eighth time this season as they broke Newcastle hearts last time out. West Brom are 7/2 (Blue Square) to score first at Old Trafford.

Kauto Star leaves Paul Nicholls" stables to begin new career in dressage

Nicholls saddened after Kauto Star leaves his stables to begin new career in dressage

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UPDATED:

18:47 GMT, 11 December 2012

Paul Nicholls admitted his 'sadness' after Kauto Star's time at his Ditcheat yard came to an abrupt end on Tuesday.

The winner of five King Georges and two Cheltenham Gold Cups had been officially retired in late October and was expected to remain at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset until Boxing Day, when he was due to parade at Kempton.

Owner Clive Smith had announced on Monday that the 12-year-old would be moving away to be prepared by European bronze medalist eventing rider Laura Collett and long-time Great Britain manager and coach Yogi Breisner for a new career in the world of dressage – a decision not popular with Nicholls and his staff.

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

Leap of faith: Kauto Star has left Nicholls' stables for the final time

The winner of 19 races for the champion trainer, including four Betfair Chases and two Tingle Creeks, Kauto Star had been with Nicholls for eight years and was invariably ridden by his head lad Clifford Baker.

'It is with great sadness that I have to report that Kauto Star has left the yard for the last time,' Nicholls told his Betfair column.

'It has been no secret that Kauto's future has been a great source of debate since we announced his retirement.

'And, to be brutally honest, this morning I felt the time had finally come for me to take control of the situation, and to start making the decisions.

'Now, I am fully aware that Kauto is Clive's horse and he can do as he wishes, even though I would personally have loved Clifford to have looked after him for the rest of his years.

'But what upset me and my team here is
when Clive announced that he had spoken to experts about the horse's
future – but failed to consult and listen properly to the team that had
looked after him here for the past nine years. That really upset us.'

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Crowd favourite: Kauto Star is set to begin a new life in dressage

Nicholls went on: 'So we had a team meeting here this morning. And after listening to everybody involved – there were about six of us in the meeting – I rang up Clive, said I don't want to fall out, but we think it is in the best interests of everybody concerned to take Kauto to Yogi Breisner's this afternoon so that he could start his new career in the dressage field as soon as possible.

'Which we did with the saddest of hearts. But I like to think with a lot of dignity, too. And, yes, there were plenty of tears too. He was a member of the family here at Ditcheat, and we will all miss him so much.

'I would just to like say that it was a privilege for us here at Ditcheat to train the horse. Good luck, old boy. You were the best – and deserve the best.'

Collett, 22, who is an aspiring Olympian based at the Membury Estate in Wiltshire, will be helped by Breisner to assess the gelding's suitability for the discipline in the coming weeks.

She tweeted: 'I feel very privileged and extremely honoured to have been asked to ride Kauto Star. I will be working closely with Yogi to give Kauto Star the best chance of a second career in dressage.'

Members of the Ditcheat team expressed their sadness at the horse's departure, with Nicholls' travelling head girl Donna Blake, tweeting:

'Farewell to our dear Kauto Star, sad day that he is leaving those who genuinely care and respect him. Undeserved.'

Smith is currently abroad, but at a lunch to promote the William Hill King George VI Chase in London on Monday, he had said: 'A lot of very good chasers have gone on to do very well at dressage, like Garrison Savannah and Neptune Collonges and I wanted him to have an interest – he's just too good to be a hack or to be out in a field.

'I wanted him to do something else and he's going to be down at the other side of Lambourn and Laura Collett and Yogi will be working with him. We'll know in a very short time (if it is a possible option).'

Silviniaco Conti wins Betfair Chase at Haydock

Silviniaco Conti steps into Kauto Star's shoes with easy win in Betfair Chase

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UPDATED:

18:43 GMT, 24 November 2012

Silviniaco Conti proved himself a worthy heir to incredible Kauto Star as he produced a spring-heeled display to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls announced last month the legendary steeplechaser had run the last race of a breathtaking career that included five King Georges, a brace of Cheltenham Gold Cups and four wins in this Grade One event on Merseyside.

While it is fanciful to believe Silviniaco Conti can reach those heights, the six-year-old leapt to second-favouritism for the Gold Cup with most firms under a typically well judged front-running ride from Ruby Walsh, to leave Nicholls beaming from ear to ear.

Gold Cup hope: Silviniaco Conti clears the last and could now head for chasing's Blue Riband

Gold Cup hope: Silviniaco Conti clears the last and could now head for chasing's Blue Riband

The runners were led down to the start by the 12-year-old Kauto Star and his faithful head lad Clifford Baker, receiving great applause from the Haydock crowd.

It was clear from when the tapes dropped no-one was overly keen to make the running, so Walsh let his mount set what was a fairly sedate gallop for the first circuit.

The 7-4 chance injected a deal of pace into the race heading down the back straight for the second time, however, and some fast and accurate jumping kept him in charge.

Long Run, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who was left chasing Kauto Star's shadow here 12 months ago, travelled with more zest on this occasion and was right on the leader's tail turning in.

But Charlie Hall Chase hero Silviniaco Conti continued to pour it on in front and galloped all the way to the line after the final fence to beat the favourite by two and a half lengths.

The Giant Bolster just held on to third spot from Weird Al.

Conti's knockout blow: Long Run is left trailing by Ruby Walsh's mount

Conti's knockout blow: Long Run is left trailing by Ruby Walsh's mount

Nicholls said: 'He is a really decent horse. He's only six, he jumps, he stays – he jumped brilliantly today.

'We had a chat before the race and I said if they go quick get a lead, if they don't then bowl along. He jumps and gallops.

'There's no better man to ride in front than Ruby.'

Nicholls revealed he may not even run again between now and next March.

'I said if he won today we'd go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan. You couldn't leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance,' he said.

'I'm not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.

'He wants to be fresh and I'm not going to run him through the winter in the mud.

'He definitely won't run in the King George, I don't think Kempton is his track. He won't run anywhere over Christmas.

Star turn: Kauto Star looks at his statue with his trainer Paul Nicholls and Head lad Clifford Baker as it is unveiled at Haydock Park

Star turn: Kauto Star looks at his statue with his trainer Paul Nicholls and Head lad Clifford Baker as it is unveiled at Haydock Park

'We could give him a run in something like the Aon but I certainly wouldn't be worried about going straight there with him.

'He could be really interesting, come Cheltenham.

'I thought he didn't get the credit he deserved at Wetherby (winning Charlie Hall).

'Long Run is a very good horse but for a six-year-old it was a good performance (today).

Legends: Kauto Star and his trainer Paul Nicholls

Legends: Kauto Star and his trainer Paul Nicholls

'Kauto won this as a six-year-old and went on to win the Gold Cup in the same season, and this horse is very, very exciting. He jumps, he has speed and he stays very well.

'Being by Dom Alco he can only improve and it's fantastic to have a young horse like this in the yard.

'I had tears in my eyes watching Kauto go in front of the stands today.

'He and the other old boys have moved on and it's so exciting to see the younger horses come through. It really is a dream come true.'

Walsh, who partnered Kauto Star to both of his Gold Cup victories, is hopeful this horse can give him the hat-trick.

Walsh said: 'The Gold Cup looks the
logical step. You win the Charlie Hall, you win the Betfair, it's the
obvious target for him. “He's a good stayer, he's not slow. I'd love to ride another Gold Cup winner.'

Despite
coming off second best to the Nicholls-Walsh team yet again, Long Run
was not disgraced in finishing second and trainer Nicky Henderson was
far from despondent.

Speaking
from Ascot, he said: 'I haven't spoken to Robert or Sam (Waley-Cohen,
owner and rider), but the boys seem very happy. We didn't want to get
into a battle today.

'He had a desperately hard race last year and he's finished off his race nicely today.

'Hopefully it's onwards and upwards and the King George is where we'll go.'

The
rider said: 'He's run his race but we've been beaten fair and square.
The ground was a bit soft for him but it was the same for all the others
and we've got no excuses.'

Waley Cohen senior said: 'It's always disappointing to be beaten when you're favourite and maybe the pace of the race was to blame.

'His jumping was a bit sticky to begin with, but when the pace picked up so did his jumping.

'He should come on for the run and will now head straight for the King George.'

The Giant Bolster's trainer, David Bridgwater, said: 'He's bound to come on for that and it was a good run.

'There's the King George and the Lexus at Leopardstown so we'll see what happens.'

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012: Kauto Star raring to go, Paul Nicholls

Kauto is raring to go and ready to Star in the Gold Cup

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 15 March 2012

A couple of weekends ago my gut feeling was that Kauto Star would not make it to the Gold Cup.

When my head lad Clifford Baker told me that he thought Kauto was only ‘50-50’ to get a run after a fall left the horse bruised and stiff, my heart sank.

Over the next few days I simply wasn’t getting the right signals from him.
But ever since then he has done nothing but improve and his gallop at Wincanton last Friday and jumping session on Monday have put a spring back in his step.

Raring to go: Kauto Star

Raring to go: Kauto Star

I’m now hopeful but not confident because any setback, however small, so close to the race has to be a big negative and I suspect we’ll meet a peak-form defending champion in Long Run.

That is not defeatist talk. We have the form horse of this season – Kauto is arguably in the form of his life after his Betfair Chase and King George wins – and he is the best horse in many of our lifetimes. If he could win a third Gold Cup, and regain it for the second time, then it would be my proudest achievement as a trainer.

I can tell you he did a great piece of work with my Triumph Hurdle hope Pearl Swan on Thursday.

I also run Sir Alex Ferguson’s What A Friend – third behind Long Run last time out in the Denman Chase at Newbury – in the Gold Cup. He was fourth last year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the places again.

Paul Nicholls discusses all of his runners on Friday, free to view, on: www.betfair.com/paulnicholls

Cheltenham Festival 2012: Kauto Star fitness test brought forward

Hope for Kauto Star as Cheltenham fitness test brought forward 24 hours

Kauto Star will have his fitness to take part in the Cheltenham Gold Cup tested in a crucial workout after racing at Wincanton on Friday.

Trainer Paul Nicholls had planned to test the well-being of the dual Gold Cup hero in a work-out with stablemate Big Buck’s on his home gallops on Saturday. That test will now be 24 hours earlier at his local racecourse in Somerset.

Fitness concerns: Kauto Star will undergo a test to see if he's ready to race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Fitness concerns: Kauto Star will undergo a test to see if he's ready to race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

The champion trainer said: 'He had a
racecourse gallop before he won the Betfair Chase (in November) and I
thought it a better idea to give him a spin, and a good workout, on the
grass away from home. Ruby will ride and he will work with Mon Parrain.

'Everyone can make their own minds up as to how he looks and works and if he does come through that ok, we will look to school him on Monday morning.

'He has had his now regular morning physio and an hour on the walker – we should bring out an exercise video, as that routine is getting so much publicity – and then we gave him his most testing workout since his schooling fall.'

Pedigree: Kauto Star won the Gold Cup in 2009 and 2007

Pedigree: Kauto Star won the Gold Cup in 2009 and 2007

The fact that Nicholls has brought the crucial work-out forward by 24 hours must be seen as a positive sign that the 12-year-old is winning his battle to be fit to run at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Nicholls team have been working hard to get him right after he was left bruised and stiff in a heavy schooling fall and the trainer has warned that there are still hurdles to overcome in Kauto Star's rehabilitation

He added in his betfair.com column: 'I must stress that it is one step at a time, and it is important that people don’t get carried away.'

WIN Manchester United v West Brom tickets

WIN tickets to see Manchester United v West Brom – courtesy of Betfair

Sportsmail has teamed up
with Betfair, the home of value and official betting partner of Manchester United, to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a pair of tickets each to see the Premier League champions take on West Brom on Sunday, March 11 (2pm).

RYAN GIGGS

RYAN GIGGS

To be in with a chance, answer the following question:

Which Manchester United player scored twice against Spurs last weekend
A) Ashley Young
B) Paul Scholes
C) Michael Carrick

E-mail your answer, along with your name, address and contact number to:

[email protected]

to arrive by 10am on Thursday, March 8.

PLEASE NOTE:
You must validate your entry with the words BETFAIR MAN UNITED in your
subject box; the tickets are for HOME FANS ONLY and do not include
travel to/from the ground, accommodation or hospitality; you must be over 18 to enter, normal
Associated Newspapers terms and conditions apply – the Editor's
decision is final.

Using Betfair Mobile, punters can bet from any handset or mobile device accessing thousands of markets on the go.

Gamble responsibly – www.gambleaware.co.uk

Manchester United betfair

About Betfair

Betfair is the world’s biggest betting community having pioneered the betting exchange in 2000.

Driven by cutting-edge technology, Betfair enables customers to bet at odds sought by themselves or offered by other customers.

The company now processes over seven million transactions a day from its three million registered customers around the world.

In addition to sports betting, Betfair offers a portfolio of innovative products including casino, exchange games and poker.

Betfair has twice been named the UK’s ‘Company of the Year’ by the Confederation of British Industry and has won two prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, being recognised for Innovation in 2003 and most recently for International Trade in 2008.

Betfair currently employs over 2,000 people worldwide.

The company holds betting licences in Gibraltar, the US, Tasmania, Italy and Malta.

Kauto Star doubtful to race in Cheltenham Gold Cup

Kauto Star doubtful for Gold Cup after taking tumble during schooling

Kauto Star is only '50-50' to make the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after a fall when schooling last week, according to trainer Paul Nicholls.

Nicholls said the dual Gold Cup winner took a nasty tumble at his Ditcheat yard under Ruby Walsh.

Speaking in his Betfair blog, Nicholls said: 'There is no easy way to say this, but Kauto Star is only 50-50 to make the Cheltenham Gold Cup after a fall schooling.'

Fading star Nicholls' horse is in battle to be fit for the God Cup

Fading star Nicholls' horse is in battle to be fit for the God Cup

Michael Owen sells half share of Brown Panther

United striker Owen sells half share in Brown to Black

Manchester United’s Michael Owen has sold a half-share in his St Leger runner-up Brown Panther.

Owen will now share the Royal Ascot winner he bred with Andrew Black, joint founder of betting exchange Betfair and a partner in the striker’s Cheshire stable.

Owen said: ‘During the last few months I have received numerous offers, culminating in one I could not refuse.

Sold: Michael Owen has sold half his stake in Brown Panther

Sold: Michael Owen has sold half his stake in Brown Panther

'Prior to accepting, I informed Andrew of my decision and offered him first refusal to buy 50 per cent. I am delighted he accepted.’

Trainer Tom Dascombe is planning a racecourse comeback for Brown Panther in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester’s May meeting.

Dascombe said: ‘He got outpaced in the St Leger because the ground was too quick and I am keen to campaign him at a mile and a half.’

Manchester United interviews with Ashley Young, Nani, Michael Carrick – watch live

Exclusive: Watch Man United's stars being quizzed as Sportsmail and Betfair host unique LIVE interview

Sportsmail has teamed up with Betfair to offer fans a unique opportunity to watch a LIVE interview with Manchester United's stars.

At 1.30pm GMT today, we
will exclusively host a real-time chat with Ashley Young, Nani and
Michael Carrick that will be watched around the world – courtesy of the champions’ official betting partner Betfair.

Betfair presents Man Utd live is a groundbreaking step in football interviews – and Sportsmail will be the only news website where you can watch it.

Michael Carrick, Nani and Ashley Young.

Michael Carrick, Nani and Ashley Young.

Young said: 'It’s been an eventful season so far, so there’s plenty to talk about. This is a great way to get close to football fans right around the world.'

Remember, we are the only media outlet that will be hosting the one-off interview as it happens.

One lucky Sportsmail reader will have their question read out – but you can still submit your questions to Betfair's official Facebook page or by tweeting @BetfairSports with #MUlive.

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Sir Bobby Charlton: Paul Scholes return was best news ever

Return of Scholes was best news ever! Legend Charlton delighted veteran is back

Sir Bobby Charlton has labelled the return of Manchester United veteran Paul Scholes as one of the best bits of news ever.

If Scholes' retirement U-turn last week at the age of 37 was remarkable, that he should score on his return to Sir Alex Ferguson's starting line-up in Saturday's 3-0 win over Bolton was truly amazing.

After all, the midfielder only found the net once last season, when he made 33 appearances.

He scores goals: Sir Bobby Charlton is delighted to see Paul Scholes back at Old Trafford

He scores goals: Sir Bobby Charlton is delighted to see Paul Scholes back at Old Trafford

But, in a period where it seems the clock is being turned back with old favourites gracing the Premier League stage once more, Charlton believes Scholes' comeback could turn out to be crucial.

'I have been more upbeat since I heard about Paul Scholes returning to the squad,' he told United Review.

'It is one of the best pieces of news I have ever had.

'He is a sensational footballer and we are very lucky to have him.

'Maybe the one thing Sir Alex (Ferguson) had given a bit of thought to was that we needed a creative player in midfield.

'Suddenly there is a knock on the door and it is Paul Scholes saying he wants to play again.

'Alex must have thought it was Christmas all over again.'

On target: Scholes marked his Old Trafford return with United's opening goal against Bolton

On target: Scholes marked his Old Trafford return with United's opening goal against Bolton

Ferguson has detected some negativity to Scholes' return from the media.
In a few quarters this is true, yet even those who are delighted to see the former England man back wearing the number 22 shirt he first adorned as a young player breaking through the ranks, accept it is a sticking plaster move until a more longer-term central midfield option is found.

TALK TO THE STARS…

Sportsmail has
teamed up with Betfair to offer Manchester United fans a unique
opportunity to be involved in a LIVE interview with the club's stars.

At 1.30pm on Thursday, January 19, we will exclusively host a real-time chat with Ashley Young, Nani and Michael Carrick.

To find out more, click here.

And, in any case, what do opinions in the press matter when those Scholes is performing alongside welcome his presence without reservation.

'Scholesy is a dinosaur,' said Patrice Evra.

'The boss said that about him, Giggsy, (Gary) Neville and (Edwin) van der Sar.

'Scholesy should never stop. Now the manager gave a gift to us. because it looked like he never stopped.

'I am so happy he is back. We need a player like that if we want to win the league.'

Typically, despite his goalscoring feats and the general interest surrounding his return to United duty, Scholes has steered clear of offering a public opinion, even to his team-mates.

Golden oldie: Scholes' team-mates Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick were delighted with the veteran's display

Golden oldie: Scholes' team-mates Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick were delighted with the veteran's display

'Someone just asked me if he had said anything about his goal,' said Michael Carrick.

'I said: “you don't know Scholesy”.'

Carrick has more reason than most to be thankful for Scholes' presence as it will take some weight off him in central midfield.

However, the 30-year-old is in his best form of the season, scoring a peach of a goal with a left-footed curling strike to wrap up victory after Danny Welbeck had doubled United's lead.

Hitting the heights: Carrick was pleased to get on the scoresheet with the third of the game

Hitting the heights: Carrick was pleased to get on the scoresheet with the third of the game

It meant United could afford a generally disappointing performance from Wayne Rooney, who missed a penalty and what appeared to be a simple second half chance on a day when little went right for the England star.

'The missed penalty upset Wayne,' conceded Ferguson, whose team ended a run of successive Premier League defeats to move level on points with Manchester City, who travel to Wigan on Monday.