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The semi-final exit of series eight's one shining light Misha B has left the X Factor with its least inspiring final, pitting predictable Marcus Collins against already-eliminated-once Amelia Lily and don't-want-to-be-perfect girl band Rhythmix. No wonder this year's winner is 3.0 to secure the usually guaranteed Christmas number one. The absence of a standout star makes it a tough final to call, but the Betfair Contrarian is certain that the surprise favourites are a lay at 2.16. Here's why...

Groups never win
Some of the most successful acts to have been produced by the X Factor are groups - think G4, JLS, Jedward and One Direction - but despite the show regularly delivering in that department, none of them have ever earned the right to challenge for top spot in the festive charts. Five have been deemed talented enough - or at least entertaining enough in the case of Same Difference - to reach the final three, however not one has triumphed and JLS are the only ones in the last six series to have even finished second. Girl groups find it even harder to gain the required amount of support in the latter stages, with Rhythmix the first ever all-female finalists.

Tulisa has nothing left to give
"There is only one record contract in this competition. If people want to hear your music released after the show, they need to pick up the phone and vote for you. I'll say it again. I want the Geordies to vote, I want Essex to vote, I want High Wycombe to vote. These girls are not safe." So yelled Rhythmix mentor Tulisa in a bizarre table-thumping take on Churchill after their semi-final efforts failed to convince comically unsubtle schemer Gary Barlow. It did the trick on that occasion, yet how can she possibly top that this weekend? Her whole campaign for votes has been to paint Rhythmix as the new face of girl power and sufferers of the same insecurities as the average female viewer, yet it has been conducted so transparently that their popularity has probably peaked too soon. Arguably their performances have too...

They slipped up in the semi-finals
Tulisa's hand-hurting routine partially hid that her "little muffins" were weak in the semi-finals, with their renditions of You Keep Me Hanging On and If I Were a Boy underwhelming and Leigh-Anne appearing to forget a line in the former. They haven't actually been that impressive throughout the series, with a few exceptions like Beautiful in the quarter-finals, their success owing more to what they are seen to represent. Prior to week four, when their VT saw Jesy open up about online abuse surrounding her weight, they were rated no-hopers and even traded at 150.00. They reacted to last week's criticism by saying: "We don't want to be perfect because then there's nothing to learn. We've still got the final yet." The reality is that it's too near the end to be a work in progress.

Amelia is ready to complete her journey
The signs were there last weekend as sole impartial judge, Louis Walsh, gave his backing to Amelia, who has started throwing iconic X Factor term "journey" into every interview, that it is her who the producers would like to see prevail. Betfair punters appear to have picked up on it too, as the 17-year-old has pushed past Marcus in to 3.55, and there is much media speculation about why her winner's single was the first made available to pre-order on HMV. Incentive to vote is provided by the fact that she was initially sent home by Kelly Rowland, seemingly the least popular of the mentors, having also been accused of favouring Misha B over her other acts. Further sympathy is built by rumours that her preparations for the final are being compromised by a bout of laryngitis.

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