As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc with sporting schedules around the globe, we have plucked out seven key fixtures that are not to be missed this week. Monday sees two IPL ever-presents lock horns in a potential classic as Royal Challengers Bangalore meet Kolkata Knight Riders. Tuesday marks the tenth stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, whilst eyes will turn to the MLB on Wednesday as Game 3 of the NLCS plays out. On Thursday, the Play-Offs of the Unibet Premier League will commence, before Port Adelaide take on Richmond in Week 3 of this year’s AFL Finals Series. On Saturday, one of the most eagerly anticipated Merseyside derbies in recent memory will be contested, before Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head on Sunday in the Bledisloe Cup.
Two IPL title candidates meet at Sharjah Cricket Stadium with proceedings kicking off at 2:00PM GMT.
There is nothing to split these two established IPL outfits heading into Monday’s affair, with both the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders boasting a record of four wins and two losses. Bangalore’s batting line-up, which includes the likes of Virat Kohli, Aaron Finch and AB de Villiers, would strike fear into any opponent. However, with Kohli heading into Monday’s game off the back of scoring 90 runs last time out, the league’s highest ever run-scorer remains in fine fettle as he looks to bring a first IPL title to Royal Challengers’ barren trophy cabinet.
Despite winning last time out, Kolkata made very hard work of a Kings XI Punjab side that has just one win to their name this term. However, the shining light for the Knight Riders was captain Dinesh Karthik, who continues to lead by example. The Indian keeper contributed 58 off of just 29 balls, hitting ten boundaries in a thoroughly impressive innings. Karthik will be well aware, however, that a comparable performance from his team will surely be punished by an aggressive Bangalore side who will be shouldering lofty expectations this term. With this game poised on a knife-edge, tune in to find out which side prevails!
Stage 10 could prove to be one of the toughest in this year’s Giro d’Italia, covering 177km between Lanciano and Tortoreto on the eastern Italian coast on Tuesday 13th October – proceedings will commence at 9.55AM GMT.
Following the first rest day of this year’s thrilling race, the riders will return to action for a gruelling tenth stage which will see them navigate the Adriatic coast, heading north from Lanciano to Tortoreto Lido. This hilly 177km stage will provide a stern assessment of the cyclist’s resilience as well as sprinting abilities as we approach the halfway stage of this year’s edition.
Last time out, race leader João Almeida was going well, until he faltered in the closing exchanges of Stage 9, as he watched compatriot Ruben Guerreiro claim victory. In spite of the disappointing finale, Almeida did enough to cling on to his pink jersey heading into the first rest day of this year’s race. The 22-year-old currently holds a 30-second lead over his nearest rival, but Almeida will be well aware of how quickly such a lead can dissipate in this prestigious race. Will Almeida extend his lead at the top of the general classification, or will the chasing pack make ground on the mercurial Portuguese?
Game 3 of the NLCS will play out in the MLB at Globe Life Field.
The winners of the National League East are thrashing it out with the winners of the National League West for a spot in this year’s World Series Finals. Atlanta Braves are looking to appear in the sport’s showpiece event for the first time since 1999, having failed to progress past the NLDS on ten of the last 11 attempts before this season. Thanks to hitters like Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and Travis d'Arnaud, Atlanta finished the regular season second in the NL in batting average and home runs. But these hitting stats flatter to deceive, as the Braves have relied on some impressive performances from their pitchers to secure their progression thus far. Having recorded four shutouts from their first five postseason fixtures, Atlanta’s pitchers will pose a serious threat to Dodgers’ World Series aspirations.
Los Angeles will be slight favourites to go all the way this season, having recorded more regular season wins than any other franchise. Furthermore, like their NLCS adversaries, the Dodgers have recorded a perfect postseason record this term and will take some stopping on their march to the World Series. In his first season with the Dodgers, right fielder Mookie Betts is already starting to repay the $365 million LA invested in him. Betts has recorded six runs in his five postseason outings this term, and will be entangled in an unmissable duel with Braves’ pitchers this week.
We have finally reached the business-end of this Unibet Premier League season, with play beginning at 6:00PM at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
In February, Michael Smith threw the first dart of the 2020 Premier League season. 253 days later, we have finally reached the Play-Off stages. Heading to Coventry on top of the pile is Glen Durrant, who has enjoyed a phenomenal first full Premier League campaign. ‘Duzza’ has already seen off the likes of MvG, Gerwyn Price and Michael Smith on his route to the Play-Offs, where he will take on two-time World Champion Gary Anderson. Of the four Play-Off contenders, only ‘The Flying Scotsman’ Anderson has experience of winning the Premier League, having done so on two previous occasions.
In the other Semi-final, reigning king of Ally Pally, Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright, will take on Nathan Aspinall, who has been the surprise package of this year’s campaign. The Premier League debutant enjoyed some spectacular results during the league phase, including two wins over fellow Play-Off contender Glen Durrant. ‘The Asp’ disappointed in his last TV appearance, however, as he lost 2-0 to a dominant Gabriel Clemens in the World Grand Prix. However, with four of the world’s top five players absent from the Premier League Play-Offs, could we see a new winner crowned?
The Preliminary Finals of the AFL season begin with Port Adelaide taking on defending champions Richmond at the Adelaide Oval on Friday 16th October at 8:50AM GMT.
In the first Preliminary Final, minor premiers Port Adelaide will play host to Richmond, as the sides compete for a place in next week’s Grand Final.
Richmond can boast far greater experience of competing at this stage of the competition, having won two of the last three Grand Finals. Meanwhile, Port Adelaide’s last appearance in a Grand Final came way back in 2007, on which occasion they lost out to Geelong. Though the experience levels of these two sides paints this matchup as a mismatch, Port Adelaide may feel that they actually hold the psychological advantage. Not only did the Power finish top of the table in the AFL regular season, they have already beaten Friday’s opponents this term, overcoming Richmond in their last meeting back in August.
There will be some serious goal-scoring talent on display in Friday’s clash, as two of the top four goal-scoring sides this term go head-to-head. After missing out on the majority of last season due to injury, Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon appears to be making up for lost time. The key forward can boast one of the most prolific goal-scoring records in the league, having notched 33 times this year already. Dixon will be eyeing a first AFL title of his career – but can Richmond put a stop to Port Adelaide’s march?
Who will earn bragging rights in Merseyside? Premier League football returns at 11:30AM GMT at Goodison Park.
In recent editions of the Merseyside derby, Everton fans have had very little to cheer about. In fact, the Toffees haven’t beaten Liverpool in any competition since 2010 - ten years ago to the day - despite meeting 22 times since then. However, there is genuine belief among Everton fans that something special is developing at Goodison, and they may finally be able to get one over their local rivals. With three-time Champions League winner, Carlo Ancelotti, at the reigns, the Toffees are perching at the very top of the Premier League, having won each of their initial four outings. The dynamism of James Rodriguez paired with the goal-scoring talents of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has proven too much for Premier League defences to handle so far, with Everton notching 12 times already this term – joint most with Leicester and Tottenham.
A team that is scoring at will is the last thing Jurgen Klopp would have wanted to be faced with this week, after he watched his side fall to an embarrassing 7-2 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa last time out. Defensive frailties that have rarely reared their head came to the fore a fortnight ago, and Klopp will be desperate to plug the defensive holes as he looks to get his back-to-back title bid back on track. At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool fans will be boosted by the return of Sadio Mane, who was forced to miss out on the Villa defeat after testing positive for the virus. To predict the outcome of any Premier League match appears to be foolish this season, so just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Old rivals New Zealand and Australia meet at Eden Park in Auckland for the second game of the Bledisloe Cup on Sunday 18th October at 3:00AM GMT.
After last weekend’s thrilling 16-16 curtain-raiser, New Zealand and Australia will do battle once more in the Bledisloe Cup. Last time out, it finished honours even as New Zealand salvaged a late draw thanks to a Jordie Barrett penalty in the 79th minute. Though Australia will take confidence from an impressive result behind enemy lines, they will be ruing the missed opportunity to record their first win on New Zealand soil since 2001.
Since the inception of the Bledisloe Cup, this competition has largely been one-way traffic, with New Zealand winning 48 titles to Australia’s 12. With the All Blacks clinging on to the prestigious trophy since 2003, Australia will be hopeful this will be the year they set the record straight to win their 13th title. With fans able to attend in light of New Zealand’s exemplary response to the pandemic, if you are looking for some signs of normality then tune in to Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup showdown!
Honourable mentions around the globe start with the NFL, with fixtures continuing to come thick and fast. There is an unmissable clash taking place on Monday night as the New Orleans Saints face-off against the Los Angeles Chargers. Three more fixtures headline the weekend’s schedule, with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the in-form Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entertaining the Green Bay Packers, whilst the Los Angeles Rams will traverse the West Coast to take on the 49ers in San Francisco. There is also plenty of NCAA College Football to sink your teeth into on Saturday, with Florida’s clash with LSU and Alabama’s meeting with Georgia headlining the action.
The ATP World Tour season continues this week, with action coming in the shape of the St. Petersburg Open, which starts on Monday and will play out all week long.
There is an eclectic mix of international and domestic football this week, as attentions first turn to the UEFA Nations League, with Germany taking on Switzerland on Tuesday, before Italy meet Netherlands and Croatia host France the following evening. Manchester City’s clash with Arsenal marks the return of Premier League football as normal service resumes on Saturday. There is a titanic Serie A clash on the continent this weekend, as Inter and AC Milan do battle at San Siro and Celtic host Rangers at Celtic Park in thrilling Scottish Premiership action.
In the MLB, the ALCS and NLCS will be contested all week long, as the Tampa Bay Rays meet the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves tussle with the LA Dodgers, respectively.
On Monday, the highly anticipated World Grand Prix Final will play out on the PDC Tour, as the competition’s surprise package Dirk van Duijvenbode toes the oche alongside high-flying Gerwyn Price. As one event finishes, another gets underway this week, as Friday sees the commencement of the European Darts Grand Prix which will conclude on Sunday. Two places at this year’s World Championships will be up for grabs in Barnsley this week, as the four-stage Women’s Series gets underway.
Rugby League fans will be treated to plenty more action from the Super League this week, as the Warrington Wolves entertain the Leeds Rhinos and the Wigan Warriors play host to Catalans Dragons. Leeds are in action once more on Saturday as they do battle with the Salford Red Devils in the Challenge Cup Final. Elsewhere, in the NRL, the Penrith Panthers have home advantage in their Finals clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, whilst the Melbourne Storm will take to the field with the Canberra Raiders.
There is another standout tie from the IPL this week as the Mumbai Indians clash with the Kolkata Knight Riders at Zayed Cricket Stadium.
This week’s Rugby Union offerings will initially see the Bristol Bears host RC Toulon in the European Rugby Challenge Cup, before the Exeter Chiefs face Racing 92 in the same competition on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Super Rugby Unlocked season also continues at the weekend, with the Stormers’ clash with the Lions headlining the action.
Keep tuned in to the Giro d’Italia all week long, with plenty more stages set to be contested.
The Brisbane Lions will entertain Geelong in the other AFL Preliminary Final on Saturday.
There are two unmissable bouts in the world of Boxing this weekend. Three titles will be up for grabs on Saturday night as Vasyl Lomachenko goes toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Teofimo Lopez. On the same night, the vastly experienced Miguel Vazquez will enter the ring with Brit Lewis Ritson to compete for the vacant World Boxing Association Inter-Continental Super Light Title.
It is the last round of the Superbike World Championship at the Circuito Estoril in Portugal and the week concludes with some exhilarating MotoGP action as the Aragon GP plays out at the esteemed Ciudad del Motor de Aragón.
A world-class week of sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!
Photos by Royal Challengers Bangalore, Giro d'Italia, Los Angeles Dodgers, Professional Darts Corporation, Port Adelaide, Everton, All Blacks
Written and information correct on 11th October at 11pm GMT
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