Blur set for highest note as pop battle reaches climax

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After a week of hype, tomorrow is the day of reckoning for Blur and Oasis. Just before seven tomorrow evening, Radio One will announce the number one record in Britain's Top 40 - and it will almost certainly be by one of the two British bands.

Sales of their two singles - Blur's "Country House" and Oasis's "Roll With It" - have both exceeded 100,000, with the biggest sales expected today.

The battle of the bands, which has lasted all week, has been compared with the Sixties battles between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Colchester's Blur are favourites to take the top slot. They are reportedly ahead of Manchester's Oasis on the midweek chart and were estimated at 27 per cent ahead on sales before today. On Thursday, Blur's sales were estimated at 140,000 to Oasis' 110,000.

There has already been squabbling between the bands and their record companies. Oasis's record company, Sony, says Blur have two versions of the single on CD, priced at pounds 1.99 each, while Blur's EMI has said that Oasis's seven-inch single is priced at 99p.

Both bands insist they are not hyping the contest but Oasis appeared on Thursday's Top of the Pops and Blur were on the cover of this week's Smash Hits. The press has also pitted the middle-class art school background of Blur against Oasis's working-class upbringing.

Oasis's Noel Gallagher said in Friday's Daily Mirror: "We'll go straight in at No 1 with the single without a doubt. Easily ... "They're the Chas and Dave of pop. Their single is hilarious."

Blur's Damon Albarn admitted in this week's Melody Maker: "More than Oasis, we're in competition with ourselves. We want a number one. We've never had one."

n Pop star Michael Jackson, in an interview on the Internet, yesterday denied reports that his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley was breaking up. He said their relationship was "pretty joyous".