50 fearless predictions for 2009

Can United Double up again, who can match Wales in the Six Nations (not England) and the Ashes will be won 2-1, but by whom? Let our experts guide you through the next 12 months
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The Independent Online

Football, by Sam Wallace

1 Manchester United to win the Premier League. Is this a fearless prediction? Perhaps more so this season because of Liverpool's good start but United are not as heavily reliant on individuals as Liverpool are with Gerrard and Torres.

2 Manchester United to win the Champions League. Now that is fearless. They have the poise of a side that could establish a dynasty in Europe. The only threat to the English hegemony is Barcelona. You'd still back Fergie over young pup Guardiola when it counts.

3 Hull City to go down. This is not meant to be spiteful because, half-time team talks aside, they have been refreshingly different. But Hull could yet be sucked into it as the bigger clubs currently below them stir.

4 Fabio Capello not to give a damn about Steven Gerrard's current difficulties. The first time Capello gets asked about this (probably next month) he'll act nonchalant. Then he will probably say something like "Gerrard is OK. I talk with him. Now we are preparing for the game against Spain." End of story.

5 Didier Drogba to give lots more interviews about his desperate unhappiness at Chelsea. Yep, France Football, L'Equipe, the Calais Advertiser – those French journalists scarcely dare answer their phones in case it's Drogba in confessional mood. Then when it subsequently appears in English newspapers he naturally denies it all.

6 Jose Mourinho to get stuck into Arsène Wenger again. You just know that at some point, Mourinho will say something gratuitously spiteful about Arsenal. Probably to do with playing fancy football and not winning trophies.

7 A groundswell of feeling that Jack Wilshere is worth a place in the England 2010 World Cup squad. A player of great potential but let's not go overboard.

Cricket, by Stephen Brenkley

8 England regain the Ashes but not before the final Test at The Oval. Australia, much depleted and whingeing about whingeing Poms, will fight all the way to defend all they have left, but lose 2-1.

9 There will be no open-topped bus ride through London. There is, however, a parade in Cardiff. The England and Wales Cricket Board, anxious to live up to their name, agree to a Welsh Assembly request in exchange for £5m of taxpayers' money, although the controversial first Test in Cardiff finished before lunch on the second day on a dodgy pitch.

10 Alastair Cook is the player of year and becomes a national hero after batting for two and a half days to save the Headingley Test.

11 In a final reduced by rain to Five5 and then to a one-over bowl out, which also finished in a tie, England beat Scotland by winning the toss at an empty Lord's after T20 seems to have bottomed out. Australia are eliminated at group stage.

12 An unseemly brawl breaks out at a T20 match when a spectator is spotted using Vodafone network on a mobile although they no longer sponsor England cricket. Tournament backer Reliance Mobile, protecting its rights, demands the spectator is banned for life.

13 The long quest to find a mystery English spinner ends when managing director Hugh Morris unveils him at Lord's. He was found in an eyrie on the Yorkshire moors and is known simply as "Wilson of the Wizard". Morris refuses to answer questions on whether he will be awarded central contract.

14 England embark on winter tour of India for five Tests and 15 one-dayers as they will do annually from now on after new accord between governing bodies.

Rugby Union, by Chris Hewett

15 In the land of the lion, the Springbok is king. When the British and Irish Lions triumphed in South Africa in 1997, the Boks scheduled two Tests at sea level and lost the series before they noticed they were playing without a goalkicker. This summer, the geographical balance will shift unforgivingly towards the high veld, with the hosts boasting some high-class marksmen. Also, the trip will be shorter by three matches, giving the Lions less time for team building. Outcome? Defeat.

16 The old country versus the colonials. In May, we should know which of the Experimental Law Variations will be made permanent: in other words, whether rugby union will reinvent itself as, er, rugby union, or continue its descent into a bastardised form of rugby league. England will argue for the status quo ante, thereby falling out with the Australians. The politics will be extremely dirty.

17 Six Nations, two contenders. Wales and Ireland will dominate the tournament. Scotland will be better, but not by enough; France will be off the wall; Italy, bereft without the maul, will be everyone's bunnies. And England? Third at best.

18 Gloucester miss out... again. The near-miss maestros will certainly make the Premiership play-offs and may even finish top for the third consecutive season. And then? Just watch Dean Ryan's face.

19 Welcome to the kennel. Relegation will be a dogfight, with Bristol, Worcester and Northampton all suffering wounds and Newcastle being put down, so to speak.

20 More Heineken amid the black stuff. Munster will retain their title. Their performance at Sale in October told us that much.

21 Daft haircut of the year. Not much of a prediction, really. Luke Abraham, the Sale flanker, is in a class of his own, despite playing alongside the fabled Frenchman Sébastien Chabal!

Golf, by James Corrigan

22 Tiger Woods wins his fifth Masters despite a 10-month absence stretching back to last year's US Open. He arrives in Augusta without a warm-up tournament following his knee reconstruction, but still prevails by five shots. Phil Mickelson announces plans to have both knees reconstructed.

23 Padraig Harrington becomes the first golfer in 53 years to win three Open Championships in succession. The Irishman beats Sergio Garcia in a play-off at Turnberry.

24 Sandy Lyle at last appointed captain of Europe Ryder Cup team in September. The genial Scotsman only receives the nod after Jose Maria Olazabal and five others all turn down the role. "If Sandy said 'no' we would have had to offer it to John Daly. And if he said no, it would have had to be Faldo again," said a relieved European Tour spokesman.

25 Michelle Wie wins her first LPGA Tour event after sacking her entire entourage. Wie is sued "for lost earnings" by former "advisers". Wie successfully counter-sues for "lost childhood".

26 Colin Montgomerie retires from competitive golf having seen his ranking fall outside the world's top 200. BBC immediately appoint Monty as "the new Peter Alliss". The old Peter Alliss has already left to present "Countdown".

Tennis, by Paul Newman

27 Andy Murray wins his first Grand Slam tournament – and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. An honour also awaits, though it might be too early to hear: "Arise, Sir Andrew". Murray could win the Australian or US Open and might also challenge at Wimbledon, exactly 100 years after the birth of Fred Perry, Britain's last male Grand Slam champion. Murray's new agent, Simon Fuller, to announce a new single by the Spice Boys, Andy and Jamie.

28 Roger Federer reclaims his Wimbledon title but not his world No 1 crown, with Novak Djokovic instead challenging the increasingly injury-prone Rafael Nadal. "It's just for protection," Nadal will insist as his knee strappings are extended from his ankles to his thighs.

29 Venus and Serena Williams to make fewer appearances than ever but still win at least two of the four Grand Slam titles.

30 Laura Robson to be acclaimed as "the new Sharapova" after winning two matches in the main draw at Wimbledon. "All she needs to do now is start grunting," Max Clifford, her newly appointed PR agent, will proclaim.

Motor racing , by David Tremayne

31 Ferrari and McLaren will fight for the world championship, which despite Robert Kubica and BMW Sauber will distil again into a mano a mano contest between Felipe Massa and a Lewis Hamilton much stronger without the title monkey on his back. Hamilton will make it a little bit easier on himself this time.

32 Max Mosley will stand for re-election as FIA president in October 2009, despite protestations to the contrary. He will feel obliged to do so "when no other suitable candidates present themselves."

33 Formula One will have another fantastic season, with more chances of overtaking, and by the time the series gets to Europe in May everyone will have forgotten the words "credit crunch" in the ceaseless hunt for more speed.

34 The FIA stewards will make better decisions but only because it will be impossible to cock it up more than they did in 2008, most notably when they stole victory from Hamilton in Belgium or treated Sebastien Bourdais disgracefully in Japan.

Sport and the credit crunch, by Nick Harris

35 The Premier League maintains it TV income. The League astonishingly bucks the recession by repeating its £2.7bn TV deals over three years (2010-13) in contracts signed in the spring. Domestically, Sky and Setanta keep the same rights for similar money, while overseas cash receipts increase slightly.

36 The Football League looks visionary by announcing a salary cap on Championship squad wages of 65 per cent of income. In reality, it is "legislating" on something that will probably happen anyway. For precedent, remember the "limits on foreigners" of 2008.

37 The penny will finally drop that ridiculously high Premier League wages and high ticket prices are related. One clever club, staring down the barrel of a huge season-ticket fall-off for 2009-10, will announce player wage cuts, with player approval, to subsidise ticket price falls. So what if it's only two per cent?

38 The alpine skiing World Championships at Val d'Isère in February will be notable for competitors who can only afford one ski. This won't affect hapless Britain, which has no realistic hopes anyway. But America's Bode Miller, now an independent, will have to ski on one leg. He wins.

Athletics, by Simon Turnbull

39 Usain Bolt will strike not once but twice at the 100m world record he set while applying the brakes in Beijing last August – once on the Golden League/Grand Prix circuit and also at the World Championships in Berlin. By the end of the summer his record will have been reduced from 9.69sec to 9.62sec.

40 Dwain Chambers will win the European indoor 60m title in Turin in March, in the week following publication of his autobiography, which rakes up his involvement in the Balco drugs scandal. The topic on the morning phone-in on BBC Radio Five the next day will be "Dwain Chambers: national hero or national disgrace?"

41 Christine Ohuruogu will surge down the home straight of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, overtaking her three main rivals in the last 100m to retain her 400m world title in August. In doing so, she will finally eclipse Kathy Cook's 25-year-old British record, 49.43sec.

Horse racing, by Chris McGrath

42 After another sleepy April, Aidan O'Brien's alarm clock rings just in time for the first Classic of the season, the 2,000 Guineas on May 2, won easily by Rip Van Winkle.

43 Kieren Fallon returns from suspension in September and wins his first race by a neck, easing his mount pointedly. After making a sporadic impact here, he disappears to America and dominates racing on the new synthetic surfaces.

44 Following an unprecedented Breeders' Cup whitewash, American punters break into Santa Anita and dig up the track. In the process they strike oil, and decide to buy the Godolphin stable. "I love my horses, but the money was just too good," explains Sheikh Mohammed.

Rugby League, by Dave Hadfield

45 An Englishman plays for Wigan. In theory, Wigan could field overseas players from 1 to 7. Brian Noble could still use the giant Karl Pryce or Sam Tomkins' giant talent.

46 St Helens don't win the Challenge Cup. After winning four of the last five finals Saints have a new coach and only one new player to replace half a dozen departing.

The rest, by Nick Harris

47 Adlington will rule the world. Rebecca Adlington will win one of at least two British golds (and medals in at least the women's 4x200m freestyle relay and both 10km open water swims) in July's World Championships in Rome.

48 Daley to deliver. Tom Daley and Blake Aldridge will be back diving together from the 10m platform in Rome and a medal, though not gold, will banish bad memories from Beijing.

49 Ronnie the fourth. At the snooker World Championship in Sheffield, Ronnie O'Sullivan sees off an unknown Chinese upstart en route to a fourth Crucible title in May.

50 Joe says it ain't so. Retirement, that is, for Joe Calzaghe who delights his bank manager, and fans, by announcing one last fight. He flips a coin to see if it's against Chad Dawson or Bernard Hopkins but picks the venue – the Millennium Stadium – with gut instinct.

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