With just four celebrities left we look at who will lift the Strictly Glitter Ball Trophy on Saturday night
After 12 weeks of ballroom action, we now know who our four finalists are. Saturday’s semi-final saw Alexandra Burke top the leaderboard with a near-perfect 79 points. Joining Burke in this weekend’s final will be Debbie McGee and current favourite Joe McFadden along with Gemma Atkinson who survived the dreaded dance-off to secure her place. The line-up leaves us with two of our pre-tournament picks in with a shout in the shape of Alexandra and Gemma, but according to the odds at least, they both face up-hill tasks.
An epic #Strictly Grand Final awaits... @alexandramusic @gorkamarquez1 @thedebbiemcgee @pernicegiovann1 @MissGAtkinson @AljazSkorjanec @mrjoemcfadden @Mrs_katjones pic.twitter.com/VJV3baHnkc— BBC Strictly (@bbcstrictly) December 10, 2017
Despite regularly topping the leaderboard and receiving the most 10’s from the judges this series, Burke has struggled to win public support having featured in the bottom two twice in recent weeks and her odds have drifted from 6/4 at one stage to her current odds of 6/1. She had been 10/1 before the semi-finals and it was a relief to see her avoid a third-straight dance off on Sunday night but it would take an almighty turnaround for her to win the show with the judges scores no longer contributing to the outcome.
Our second pre-tournament pick Gemma Atkinson has also suffered a bumpy ride in recent weeks, failing to score high enough with the judges and relying on the public to save her. Sunday saw her appear in the dance-off for the first time after another average showing and she’s subsequently drifted out to the 14/1 outsider of the field. A huge price considering her popularity with the public in previous weeks and one that may tempt another small investment!
With half the field covered it leaves just Joe and Debbie left to consider. McGee is undoubtedly one of the surprise packages of this series (although not to Andy Holding who tipped her as top female after week 1!) as she has defied all Strictly logic to make it through to the final. Bookies have her down as the 5/2 second favourite after a series of technically-strong performances have seen the judges score her highly throughout the competition. But, there has also been times where her weaknesses have been exposed. Regularly suffering ‘tough weeks’ in the build up to the weekend shows, she’s not been afraid to mention injuries and her age at any opportunity. With the final requiring multiple dances, including what should be an all-action showcase dance, there has to be concern as to whether she can deliver across all of her dances on Saturday night. Our final pre-tournament shout of a female winner covers us for a Debbie win and I’m not keen to back her outright.
Which of course leaves us with the only male left in the competition and the bookies’ favourite Joe McFadden. The Holby City actor is now odds-on at just 4/6 after avoiding the bottom two throughout the whole series. The Scot has improved considerably since the show began and has regularly been referred to as the ‘dark horse of the competition’. Starting the show at original odds off 16/1, few would have had him down as a potential finalist, let alone the odds-on jolly. Arguably only the third-best dancer left in the competition (behind Alexandra and Debbie), his odds are clearly priced-up on his apparent popularity with the public and although he has the genius choreography of Katya Jones to call on this weekend, his odds are a bit on the skinny side considering his dancing ability.
With three points already invested in Alexandra (at 11/2) and a further three on a female winner (even money), the half a point on Gemma (13/2) means the sensible thing would be to back Joe outright. However, a Debbie victory would put a spanner in the works and with the old adage that the British public cannot be trusted, piling in on a 4/6 shot doesn’t appeal.
Instead, I’m going to rely on a strong final performance and a strong public reaction from last weekend's vote and go in again on Gemma at 14’s with half a point and a further small play on Gemma to finish top female at 5/1.