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Dovizioso playing catch-up in title decider

Andrea Dovizioso needs a lot of things to go his way in the final race of the year as one of the most exciting MotoGP championships of recent times reaches its thrilling conclusion.

The factory Ducati rider won the last race in Malaysia and needs to repeat that feat at the Valencia Grand Prix if he is to have any chance of stopping Marc Marquez winning a fourth title in motorcycle racing's premier class.

With Repsol Honda rider Marquez holding a 21-point lead over his Italian title rival, things are stacked against Dovizioso and he is 8/1 to clinch the title.

If he is to snatch the title in Marquez's home country, he will be hoping for more of the luck which came his way at Sepang. The Spaniard struggled and crashed during qualifying before only finishing fourth in the race but he is 1/25 to get the job done on Sunday.

Claims of team orders abounded when race leader Jorge Lorenzo was passed by team-mate Dovizioso in the closing stages. But, as Lorenzo later explained, he had nearly fallen several times during the race and was looking after his own interests by easing off.

In what has been a difficult first season at Ducati for Lorenzo, the Spaniard can perhaps be excused for settling for a safe second place - his best result of the season so far - as rain made the going treacherous in Malaysia.

The fact that his actions benefited team-mate Dovizioso as they helped the Italian keep his slim title hopes alive served as a bonus for Lorenzo's Italian employers.

The title challenge coming down to a two-horse race on the final day comes as something of a surprise after a season that has seen the points lead change hands several times.

The early-season form which marked Maverick Vinales' debut season for Movistar Yamaha has deserted the young Spaniard in the closing stages of the campaign and his title challenge has faded, much in the same way as a broken right leg dealt a blow to his team-mate Valentino Rossi's bid for a 10th world title.

Rossi remains a force to be reckoned with and could complete the campaign with a race win which would be popular among his legion of fans, even in Spain where he is as popular as some of the home riders.

Frenchman Johann Zarco has continued to impress for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 during a season which has seen him bid for honours, even if he has spent plenty of time swapping paint with the likes of Rossi, particularly in the tricky conditions at Sepang.

It is hard to see any other riders contending for a podium place at Valencia, other than Marquez's diminutive team-mate and fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa.

Andrew McDermott
@a_mcdermott in Moto GP