Rose Ayling-Ellis and John Whaite will be competing for the Glitterball trophy in the live final of the BBC One show, after AJ Odudu was forced to drop out after suffering a devastating injury during training
The four Strictly Come Dancing judges have had their work cut out for them during this year’s series, as it’s featured some of the most talented celebrity contestants ever.
Tonight, EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice will battle it out on the dancefloor with former Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite and Johannes Radebe for the coveted Glitterball trophy.
AJ Odudu also made up the final line-up after securing her spot following last week’s semi-final, but she and partner Kai Widdrington were forced to drop out after she suffered a devastating injury during training earlier this week.
Tonight, the judges will have no say on who wins, as the champion is decided by the public vote.
But over the course of the competition, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Anton Du Beke and Shirley Ballas have put their gold scoring boards to good use, and they’re eager to see who will lift the trophy.
We take a look at who they bet will be winning the Strictly final…
Craig Revel Horwood
Last month, the sharp-tongued judge predicted that this year’s finalists would be Rose, John and AJ, and his crystal ball was absolutely spot on.
“If I was choosing, that’s who it would be,’ he told Hello! Magazine in November.
He said there has ‘never been dancing like it’ in his years of judging on the BBC One show, and said there was a ‘lot at stake’.
“And the closer they get to the end, the more competitive they’re all becoming… so there’s a lot at stake really and they’re all hungry for it,” Craig added.
He hoped AJ would make it through to the final, saying he wanted her to ‘soldier on’ after her injury, because it wouldn’t be the same without her.
“I’m hoping and praying because she is so good and I will really miss her if she’s not there,” he said on Good Morning Britain.
He tipped Rose to be in the final after her stunning Argentine tango, and told the delighted EastEnders actress: “That dance belongs in the final.”
The outspoken judge has been generous with her scores this year, offering up 10s to performing couples almost every week.
While she has been blown away by Rose and Giovanni’s emotional routines, Motsi had a soft spot for AJ, and warned viewers not to rule her out of the competition.
“Don’t just put her to the side, she has that strength, she has shown it, she’s been in the dance-off, she came back stronger, so all I can say is just put your heart on the dancefloor, take care of yourself but just go out there and have a really great time,” she said on It Takes Two.
Now that AJ has been forced to quit the Strictly final, it’s not yet known who Motsi will be backing as winner, but she’s been positive in her comments towards both John and Rose.
After Rose and Giovanni’s incredible American Smooth in the quarter-finals, Motsi said Rose deserved to go all the way in the competition, and after her sizzling Argentine Tango, she told the actress she had outperformed her fellow celebs.
“Oh my word. What a statement. For me that was the dance of the night, the dance of the month, the dance of the series,” Motsi exclaimed.
Anton du Beke
This year marks the first time Anton has served as a full-time judge on the dancing competition, after being one of the professionals partnered with celebrities since 2004.
He has tried to stay on the fence when it comes to picking who would be holding the Glitterball trophy aloft on Saturday, and admitted it was hard to pick a winner because it’s been such a rollercoaster of performances.
“I don’t have any favourites,” he told Digital Spy. “Every week is different.
“One week you get a fabulous dance and you finish top of the leader board, the next week you’re bottom,” Anton explained, adding that it was ‘volatile’ and contestants have been ‘all over the place.’
However, during an appearance on It Takes Two, he teased the possibility of another couple causing an upset in the final, as he predicted Rose and Giovanni were the surefire winners.
Discussing who was the ‘most consistent couple’ during the competition, Anton opted for another couple, and hinted they would scoop the prize.
“The most consistent couple through the whole competition, I think, has been John and Johannes, followed very closely by Rose and Giovanni. So it’s going to be epic,” he shared.
The former professional dancer has been full of praise for this year’s contestants, but she revealed it’s been a difficult time judging them, because they’re all so good.
“This is by far the most difficult cast to judge… it’s phenomenal, she said during an appearance on Saturday Kitchen.
Shirley has also been a big fan of John and Johannes, who she sweetly nicknames Jojo, and said their rumba was so powerful it moved her to tears.
“Actually I’m quite moved, I feel really quite emotional after watching that,” the visibly emotional judge said.
She was also asked by It Takes Two host Rylan if John could win the competition, and she cryptically answered: “That’s not my job to say, it is the public at the end of the day.”
She said Rose and Giovanni’s pairing was ‘historic’, and said their chemistry was ‘off the walls’.
“They’ve both brought the best out of each other. She takes her game up every week,” Shirley added.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.