Belgium are the only side from UEFA qualifying to book their place at the 2018 World Cup so far (except for hosts Russia). That will change over the coming international break with England one of those sides on the verge of qualifying. Gareth Southgate’s men will be assured of their place in Russia with a victory over Slovenia on Thursday night at Wembley Stadium while a draw will be good enough if Slovakia fail to beat Scotland away from home. Southgate will be happy enough to get a successful qualification campaign under his belt but he knows that the hard work starts now. England have a habit of performing well on their way to a tournament before spectacularly crashing and burning when they get there. Southgate does have big tournament experience with the England Under 21s but he still has plenty of work to do to win over the bulk of the England support.
In order to take a horse’s chances of winning the 2000 Guineas seriously they must have shown something special as a juvenile. Therefore, connections of some of those slated for big things next season will be looking for their horses to prove themselves at Newmarket on Saturday at the Middle Park Stakes. This Group 1 race for two-year-old colts is run over six furlongs. That makes it a little short of the distance of the 2000 Guineas, but at this stage in their development it is a great test for the early season Classic. The early betting for the 2000 Guineas suggests that those in the field for the Middle Park Stakes have some improving to do to have a chance of bagging the big one. But things can change quickly when it comes to two-year-olds so this is a race that’s worth paying very close attention to.
This season is the 25th since English football was changed for ever by the introduction of the Premier League (or Premiership as it was back then). In the time that’s past we’ve seen all sorts of classic battles as certain fixtures have developed a legend of their own. Newcastle versus Liverpool is one such fixture. These two huge clubs were once both genuine Premier League title contenders and since 1992 have been involved in some stunning matches, including back to back 4-3 Liverpool wins at Anfield.
When things are not going to plan for a Premier League manager the one thing they’d like more of is time on the training ground to work with their players. Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, maximised his training ground time last season steer his team away from the threat of relegation straight back into the Championship. Unfortunately for his opposite number on Sunday, Ronald Koeman, things are a little different. Koeman’s come in for some serious criticism for Everton’s poor start to the season but rather than having the chance to iron out the difficulties at Finch Farm, he’s had to prepare his team for a never-ending run of fixtures. As well as the Premier League and Carabao Cup, Koeman’s had the qualifying and group stages of the Europa League to contend with so it’s little wonder his team have been below par. Everton did at least secure a morale boosting comeback win against Bournemouth last weekend and the Goodison Park faithful will be expecting another win one week later.
Chelsea fans have not been particularly happy with the amount of people claiming that the Premier League title is heading to Manchester this season. Both Man City and Man Utd have had very strong starts to the season but Chelsea are just three points shy of the early pace setters after their own solid start. As the defending champions, Chelsea may not feel as though they have to prove themselves as title contenders but they’ve got a great chance to prove that the critics are wrong to write them off when they take on Man City early on Saturday evening.