The F1 season heads to Malaysia next for what should be another fascinating race. The Sepang track is a very different proposition to Melbourne, with more high-speed corners and a much higher race temperature. Traditionally the Red Bulls do well here, so it will be interesting to see whether the McLarens can maintain their current edge in terms of raw pace. Based on early practise on Friday Lewis Hamilton seems the man to beat, coming first in both sessions, over 0.514 seconds ahead of Vettel in second position. After qualifying sixth Sebastian Vettel went on to have a superb Sunday to pip Lewis Hamilton to second place. The reigning world champion is offered at 2/1 to win a third successive title just behind odds-on favourite Jenson Button, who has started this season as he finished 2011. Fernando Alonso seems to have ruled out a repeat of last week’s heroics in Australia, with any raft of improvements on his Ferrari not scheduled until the European phase of races. Sepang rewards aerodynamically efficient cars and Lotus will have another chance to mix it with the bigger teams this weekend, after an impressive showing last time out.
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Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspurs – Saturday 12:45
After a breathtaking mid-week fixture of Premier League football, the weekend kicks-off with another important match, in Chelsea v Tottenham. Saturday’s lunch-time game rather than deciding whether Spurs could mount a title challenge will now be crucial in an increasingly competitive battle for fourth place. A Chelsea win would leave them only two points behind a free-falling Spurs side, who seem a mile away from challenging the two Manchester clubs.
Paddy Power are offering another money-back special on this match; If Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard or John Terry score the last goal of this game Paddy Power will refund all losing 1st/last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the match.
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Peyton Manning has finally decided on his future in NFL, deciding to join the Denver Broncos ending a multi-team pursuit of the Super Bowl XLI most valuable player. Released by the Indianapolis Colts, who didn’t want to take him up on his $28 million bonus, Manning underwent examination and talks at the Titans and 49ers before deciding to join the Broncos. The record four-time season MVP phoned former Broncos quarterback and now executive vice-president John Elway to reveal his new team, which spelt the exit for Tim Tebow who was immediately traded on to the New York Jets. Manning has signed a five year contract that is understood to be worth up to $96 million, if he is fit. Bookmakers immediately dropped the odds of the broncos winning next season’s Super Bowl on the news, with sportsbook.com offering the Broncos at 9/1.
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The race for the Western Conference playoffs is incredibly tight as we go into the final two weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season. The St. Louis Blues lead the conference with 100 points and are the only team to clinch a playoff spot thus far. Yet the final seed has yet to be determined. Mathematically, the Blues can still finish as an eight seed with eight games remaining. There are two clusters of teams fighting for spots. The Chicago Blackhawks are the six seed with 92 points. They are tied with Nashville Predators, also of the Central Division. The Detroit Red Wings are just one point ahead with 93. All of these teams are chasing the Blues for a division crown.
However, the Pacific Division is the most tightly contested. The Dallas Stars lead the division with 85 points. Two teams are just a point behind, the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. The once-vaunted San Jose Sharks hold the fourth spot in the Pacific with 82 points. The Sharks are the current 10 seed but could move up to a three seed with just four more points provided the Stars falter. No playoff seed is secure as of yet. Mathematically, there are still 14 of 15 teams in the West that can qualify for the playoffs which should make for a gripping close to the season.
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Whilst most eyes focus on the Premier League, the Championship is drawing to a close with three teams battling it out for automatic promotion. A place in the Premier League is worth an estimated £100 million each to the teams that do make it up; with Southampton, Reading and West Ham slugging it out for the two automatic berths. Southampton continue to lead the way on 75 points, and their unbeaten league run stretches back to 2 January. Reading, buoyed by the January signing of Jason Roberts, have only lost once since the BBC pundit came in and now sit in second place. By contrast, West Ham have floundered at home recently, drawing their last four games. Sam Allardyce has been strongly backed financially and to not bounce straight back up to the Premier League would be a major disappointment and a financial disaster. Like Newcastle two years ago, the owners are taking a hit this season in the hope that they can gain immediate promotion. Baring a major hiccup Southampton look good for the top spot and the bookies agree making them 4/11 to finish as champions. Reading are just ahead of West Ham in the betting for promotion, coming in at 4/5 and 8/11 respectively.