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Five big weekend predictions

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Kangaroos win in a tight one

The Kiwis have named a strong side to take on the Kangaroos in Townsville on Saturday night. Their halves pairing of Kieran Foran and Benji Marshall will be difficult for the Aussies to handle, and the visitors boast a host of stars who played solid football deep into the finals series in Sam Perrett, Krisnan Inu, Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano, Issac Luke and Greg Eastwood. However, recent history suggests New Zealand's best chance of beating Australia is late in a tournament when they have had time for their combinations to gel, as they showed in the 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nations finals. The Kiwis' record in one-off Tests isn't so impressive, partly due to the presence of Melbourne's big three (along with Greg Inglis, the former Storm-turned Rabbitohs star who used to make up the big four) in the Australian side, meaning the Kangaroos don't take as long to find their groove because of their familiarity with one another. The Kiwis will put up a fight but the Aussies will be too strong with the likes of Inglis, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and hometown hero Johnathan Thurston to bring them home. - DR

Del Piero gets his maiden Aussie win

The first of the A-League's "marquee matchups" takes place on Saturday when Alessandro Del Piero and Sydney FC host Emile Heskey and the Newcastle Jets. Both sides are winless after 0-2 results in the opening round, but Del Piero and the Sky Blues should be better for their hit-out in Wellington. Let's not forget Sydney had a terrible lead-in to the season proper, with not a single competitive game in the final three weeks of the pre-season. They were lacklustre against the Phoenix as a result, but the 90 minutes in the bank should mean Del Piero's teammates are more acclimatised to his presence this time round. Meanwhile, the A-League is expecting a 35,000-strong turnout for Sydney's first home match with their new star, and such vocal support should help fire the Sky Blues over the line. - AJ

Vettel takes over championship lead

Sebastian Vettel always seems to find that little bit extra at the pointy end of the Formula One season, and with five races remaining the German has begun to make his move. Vettel is currently four points behind Fernando Alonso, who has not won a race since July, and we think the German will be in the box seat for the championship by the end of the Korean Grand Prix. Red Bull have finally got their car sorted after months of tinkering, and the double DRS worked to devastating effect in qualifying last weekend. Now that they have the speed to lock out the grid, Vettel and Mark Webber should secure the lion's share of points in Yeongam. Assuming there is no intervention from "first-lap nutcase" Romain Grosjean, that is. - AJ

Easy win fails to lift Hodgson pressure

England’s next World Cup qualifier pits them against San Marino, a country that provided one of the most memorable moments from football in the 90s. We’re talking, of course, about the USA ‘94 qualifier in 1993, when Davide Gualtieri scored for the minnows against Graham Taylor’s side after just eight seconds, as England continued their doomed bid to reach the biggest tournament of all. They eventually won 7-1 that night in Bologna, and while the reunion at Wembley will again be a comfortable win for England, the pressure on Roy Hodgson after an unfortunate couple of weeks (his transgressions on the underground, Ashley Cole’s Twitter saga) will not let up. England’s first outing after John Terry’s retirement from international football is set to be a test of character and professionalism for both team and coach, even if they are not tested on the pitch. England should score at least four goals, but expect a hearty North London cheer should San Marino somehow fluke one as they did 19 years ago. - BS

Stoner's return fails to halt Lorenzo

Casey Stoner will be back on his Repsol Honda this weekend for the first time since tearing ankle ligaments in a crash at the Indianapolis GP in mid-August. Once a contender for his third championship, Stoner is now mathematically out of the running, but Honda are hoping the Aussie can still help teammate Dani Pedrosa chip into Jorge Lorenzo's 33-point lead. We don't think so. With limited time on the bike since his injury, it's hard to see Stoner wedging himself between the world's two best riders at the Japanese MotoGP on Sunday. We think Lorenzo and Pedrosa will split the top two placings, as they have for five of the last seven races, with Stoner having no influence on the championship race whatsoever. - AJ


Sunday, 2.00pm – The Australian Diamonds take on England in their first match of the Holden Netball Quad Series, with the Silver Ferns then facing South Africa. Catch all the action streamed LIVE on BigPond Sports Weekend.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.

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