Say what you like about Belgium, but when they set their sights on doing something, they don’t half do it properly. Does anyone make a finer beer than Chimay? Does anyone make a nicer chocolate than Leonidas? Have you ever seen anyone put together a more accomplished group of Eurodance chart toppers than 2 Unlimited?
There is no limit (sorry) to what this little country next to the Netherlands can do, and when it comes to making strapping, 6ft 4in, defence-terrorising, Long Shot-winning footballers, has anyone made a better one than Christian Benteke?
Not in our eyes, and the Aston Villa striker’s excellent opening strike against Liverpool last week landed us a 7/1 winner, for which both the Long Shot and the girls in Stringfellows are eternally grateful.
It put the Long Shot kitty up to a season-high £187, based on placing a tenner on all three selections every week, and with just a few weeks of the season remaining we look set to post a profit over the course of the year.
But we’re not resting on our laurels just yet, and these three selections look good to me. Get on them.
Sunderland to beat Chelsea draw no bet @ 6/1
I will happily accept that this could be as mad as the man himself, but what if – just what if – Paolo Di Canio takes the golden touch he so obviously possessed at Swindon Town and pulls off a remarkable victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge?
Under Martin O’Neill, Sunderland were sleepwalking to relegation (despite his protestations to the contrary) but with the ever-eccentric Italian now in charge, your guess is as good as mine as to how the Black Cats are going to perform from hereon in.
It won’t be dull off the pitch, that is for sure, and as we don’t yet know how it will go on the pitch, I am going to take a chance he starts in a blaze of glory.
Chelsea are in the middle of a run of 143 games in 12 days, and they are going to slip up somewhere along the line.
They already have, against Southampton last weekend, and with Rafa Benitez rotating his squad into a spin, quite which Chelsea will turn up is anyone’s guess. And it could just be that Sunderland spring a jaded and disorientated Blues a surprise.
I nearly went for the 9/1 for Sunderland, but the 6/1 on draw no bet is a good enough Long Shot price and if it finishes all square, we get our money back.
And more than the money, I’d want to see Di Canio’s reaction should he emerge victorious: it’ll probably be even wilder than ours.
Christian Benteke to score first in Stoke City v Aston Villa @ 13/2
This selection may show a bit of a lack of imagination, but I’ve got a deadline to meet here and, hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Christian Benteke is in incredible form for Aston Villa at the moment, and having done the business for us last week by opening the scoring against Liverpool, I see him doing exactly the same when Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened side go to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City.
The Belgium international has scored nine goals in his last 11 league matches, six of which have been the first goal, taking his record to 14 league goals and eight opening strikes this season.
He looks like the only man you can trust to score for Villa. In fact, he looks like the only player at the Britannia that can possibly score on Saturday.
Even I score more often than Stoke (even if it does cost me), and a side that has scored one goal in the last five games and drawn five blanks in the last seven league games are there for the taking. Big Bad Benteke can be the man again at 13/2.
Dimitar Berbatov to score first in Newcastle United v Fulham @ 7/1
Another man in great form is everybody’s favourite lazy part-time genius Dimitar Berbatov, and I like the look of his current hot streak continuing when Fulham make the epic journey to St James’ Park to face Newcastle on Sunday.
That ubiquitous terrace song ‘he scores when he wants’ is one of the most annoying of the unfeasibly irritating chants from the ‘Sloop John B’ collection, but in Berbatov’s case it is actually true: when he can be bothered, he is unplayable. When he can’t be bothered, you might as well have me up front for all the good it would do.
But at the moment, Berba is on fire. The Bulgarian has scored six goals in his last six games, five of which were the opening strike.
While such a great player is in this kind of form we have to getting on him to bag the opener again, especially against an injury-hit and Europa League-affected Newcastle side that have conceded nine goals in their last three games and have kept just two clean sheets in 15 league matches.