Champions League returns, how many English Clubs will proceed to the last 8?

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It goes without saying that it hasn't been the best of weeks for Villa and ahead of a very difficult trip to Moscow next week they face a Chelsea side who, we are led to believe, are united behind their new manager Guus Hiddink. The Ditchman is expected to play both of his enigmatic strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba at Villa Park. Villa have only had one chasing this season and that was at Stamford Bridge when they were lucky to get nil in a comprehensive 2-0 defeat. Teams seem to invariably get a lift when a new boss is introduced and even the Chelsea players and their inflated egos are reported to be impressed by Hiddink.

A couple of weeks ago and Villa would have been vying for favouritism with Chelsea but you can back Martin O'Neill's side at 2/1 this afternoon with last season's Champions League runners up the 11/8 favourites with the draw at 9/4. Villa have got a decent record against Chelsea but the timing could be better and a point wouldn't be the worst result this afternoon. We are offering 11/8 there will be under 2 goals this afternoon, 11/4 exactly two and 11/8 over two goals. Villa are struggling to keep a clean sheet at present and I think there will be goals.

Villa are out to 13/8 to qualify for the last sixteen of the UEFA Cup and are now 20/1 to land the Trophy. Whilst Champions League qualification remains the premier objective for Martin O'Neill this looks an overreaction and a full-strength Villa with their own "Little General" managing operations surely has every chance of doing what Napoleon couldn't and return from Moscow with an away win.

Blues are back in the automatic promotion places after their improved performance against Forest last weekend but they must at least maintain that level at the Ricoh Arena against a Coventry side who without late equalizers would be facing the Blues on the back of excellent Lancashire away wins at Blackburn and Burnley.
The hope is that Chris Coleman's side will have one eye on next week's FA Cup 5th round replay against Rovers and this looks an ideal opportunity for Alex McLeish's team to make their move for the Championship title. You can back Coventry at 7/4 the draw is 11/5 and the visitors are 11/8. With Wolves having their annual wobble Blues must show a ruthless streak. Reading are the 11/10 favourites for the Championship title from Wolves at 15/8 and Blues 7/2.

The Champions League returns next week and we are asking punters how many English sides will progress to the quarter finals? Arsenal (4/6 to qualify) entertain Roma (11/10) and holders Manchester United (4/7) travel to Milan to meet current Series A leaders Inter (5/4) on Tuesday and the following day Liverpool (4/5) travel to Madrid (10/11) to take on a Real side who have won every game they have played in 2009 and Chelsea (8/15) host Juventus (11/8). The Bianconeri have been out of sorts in recent weeks and Chelsea, whatever the outcome of today's game at Villa Park, should have too much ammunition for their faltering visitors.

But how many English sides do you think will make it through to the last eight? We make two the 8/5 favourites but I am attracted to the 13/2 on offer for all four sides to qualify. I am convinced that only Barcelona can prevent another English side picking up the Champions League trophy in Rome at the end of May but what country do you believe will provide the winning Champions League side?

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How many English sides will make the quarter finals of the Champions League?

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  • 0 22/1
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  • 1 10/3
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  • 2 8/5
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  • 3 15/8
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  • 4 13/2
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What country will provide the winners of the Champions League?

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  • England 6/5
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  • Spain 7/4
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  • Italy 9/2
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  • Germany 10/1
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  • Any Other country 18/1
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Andy Murray remains our 9/4 favourite to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year after his defeat of an injured Rafael Nadal in Holland last weekend but he will surely have to win Wimbledon or the US Open to have any chance and one wonders after the Australian Open whether the Scott possesses the mental strength to go all the way in a Grand Slam at this stage of his career. With the BBC broadcasting Formula 1 Lewis Hamilton will surely win if he defends his World Title and 4/1 looks big given Hamilton is only 9/4 to win the 2009 F1 Title (Massa 15/4, Raikkonen and Alonso 4/1) although if England regain the Ashes Andrew Flintoff (14/1) and Andrew Strauss 22/1 will surely enter calculations.

Ray Quinn has turned the current series of Dancing On Ice into a farce given he is light years ahead of his rivals. He was advised at 3/1 and is now 1/4 such is his superiority. Having achieved a maximum score of 30 by the judges last weekend it will be interesting to see if he maintains that standard Sunday night. We bet 5/6 the highest score is over 29.25 and 5/6 the highest score is under 29.25. Will the cheeky Scouser get another maximum?

The Racing Post Chase is the weekend highlight from Kempton Park. Big Fella Thanks has been very well backed all week but the drying ground may not suit and preference is for Ungaro representing the Keith Reveley stable who won last weekend's feature from Haydock Park via Rambling Minster who is 20/1 to follow up in the Grand National in April.
I am convinced we won't see the best of Hebridean until the spring and the better ground (Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree?) but as long as there is no appreciable rain at Kempton he should give us a run for our money at a big price especially if leading Triumph Hurdle fancy Starluck stands his ground in the Adonis Hurdle at 3.45. On the level Jamie Osborne's Key Regard is hardly bred to get 10f but he flew home when runner up over C&D last month and normal improvement should see him go one better in Lingfield's opener.

Be lucky

Charlie