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The 2010/2011 premiership title race appears all-but-over already, with Manchester United barely out of second gear, unbeaten all season and leaving the chasing teams in their wake. United’s main title rivals seem to continue to take points off each other and struggle against the lesser teams. Manchester United are yet to kick on and play their best football but are looking as strong as ever in defence, improving in midfield with Nani in the form of his life and Berbatov leading the race for the golden boot, in arguably better form than he ever was at Tottenham or Bayer Leverkusen. I believe Manchester United will make it to 19 league titles. I think Tottenham will sneak into the Champions League places at the expense of Chelsea who I am predicting to continue their current downward decline and finish fifth. I expect Everton to continue to turn around their season after a poor start and sneak into the Europa League in sixth place with Bolton in seventh. In the relegation battle, I am predicting a few shocks with West Ham and Wigan who are currently in 20th and 19th respectively to survive, with Wolves, Aston Villa and perennial yo-yo club West Brom to go down, as much as that may suggest an anti-Midlands bias.
I predict that Barcelona will win the Champions League. Although they face a tough task in the first knockout round versus Arsenal I can see them having too much quality, and as one of the only teams in the world with the capacity to do so, they will outplay Arsenal. I expect Manchester United and Real Madrid to push them close; however I am going to go for Barcelona to outplay, and if necessary out-battle, any team in their way and regain the Champions League.
Year on year there seems to be more and more top teams challenging for the secondary European competition in what is now known as the Europa League. I think the Spanish teams will be making it to the latter stages yet again, with the main challenge coming from Villarreal, currently third in La Liga, courtesy of the sharp shooting of Brazilian forward Nilmar and former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi. However, I think that Manchester City’s style of football is more suited to the knockout stages of European competition than it is the premiership, and I can see Tevez and Balotelli firing City to European glory.
F1 World Championship
With five world champions set to start the 2011 season, it could be one of the most open championships in years with, as has been the case in the last two years, the whole championship coming down to the final race of the year. My prediction is that Fernando Alonso will win his third title this year, his first since 2006, and Ferrari’s first since 2007. I expect Hamilton and Vettel being the ones to push Alonso all the way, with Rosberg to have his best season yet.
After starting 2011 by beating Roger Federer 7-6, 7-6 in the final of the invitational world championships in Abu Dhabi, Rafael Nadal has started as he means to go on and already laid down the gauntlet to Federer. Since returning from injury Nadal has looked stronger, faster and better than ever, and, at the age of 24 is still improving. I believe after taking the French Open/Wimbledon double last year for the second time in his career, barring injury he is set to achieve the same again this year, at least.
It is hard to back anyone other than Serena Williams for this year’s singles title. In spite of being ranked number four in singles, her record at Wimbledon speaks for itself; she has won nine titles in total at Wimbledon, including four in the singles. And last year’s straight sets victory in the final over Vera Zvonareva showed that she has still got what it takes at the age of 29 to win a major title. In spite of this I am tipping Caroline Wozniacki to improve markedly on her previous best of getting knocked out in the fourth round, and go on to secure her position as world number one with her first major win at Wimbledon.
Rugby Union World Cup
New Zealand will host the seventh Rugby Union World Cup, and are favourites to prise the title away from holders and two-times world champions South Africa. The bookmakers odds suggest that this year’s winner will come from one the previous winners; South Africa (twice), Australia (twice), New Zealand and England. I think New Zealand under the captaincy of Richie McCaw, as the host and number one ranked team in the world will become the third team to win the title for the second time, and sixth southern hemisphere winner in seven world cups.
Cricket World Cup
The tenth Cricket World Cup will be held jointly by India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Australia will be looking to build on their fantastic record in the competition with the highest win percentage in world cup history at 75%, and having won the last three world cups. However I think Australia are at best in a transitional period at the moment and will struggle with the loss of so many key players through retirement. Although I would love England to win it, I suspect it will be one of the South Asian hosts that pick up the title. For me, Sri Lanka will win the Cup, with the superb spin bowling of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis playing a pivotal role.