This Week in Sport: 14th – 20th December 2020

‘Tis the season for merriment and festivities, and we’ve got seven reasons to celebrate this week as the sporting world provides a plethora of elite entertainment. Another unmissable week of sporting action begins in Cleveland, Ohio as the Browns welcome the Baltimore Ravens to FirstEnergy Stadium. Bring your best fancy dress on Tuesday, as the annual ‘Ally Pally’ party gets underway, to mark the start of the William Hill World Darts Championship. 

There will be plenty more sounds of revelry at Anfield on Wednesday night when 2,000 Liverpool supporters will watch their team take on league leaders Tottenham Hotspur in one of the most significant matchups of the season so far. The party hats will be replaced by cricket helmets on Thursday as we enjoy the 1st Test between Australia and India. Wasps and Montpellier will do battle in a bruising European Rugby Champions Cup clash on Friday. 

One of the most highly anticipated bouts of the year will finally play out on Saturday as the pound for pound champ Canelo Alvarez enters the ring with the unbeaten Callum Smith. The weekend’s action concludes with another titanic NFL matchup as the New Orleans Saints take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

BrownsMonday 14th December 1:15AM GMT (Tuesday 15th) – American Football: Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens

Two playoff candidates lock horns in this NFL showdown – the action from Cleveland begins at 1:15AM GMT.

This week’s offering of Monday Night Football sees two AFC North rivals lock horns in Cleveland for a matchup with huge playoff ramifications. 

For many, the jury is still out on whether Baker Mayfield can transform the Cleveland Browns into Super Bowl candidates, but the third-year pro has finally got his offence operating at an elite level. Cleveland are one of the form teams in the NFL right now, and head into Monday’s showdown on the back of a four-game winning streak. Much of their recent success must be attributed to the quarterback, who submitted another standout performance last time out when Mayfield threw for 334 yards and four TDs against the Titans. However, it hasn’t been all plain sailing for the Browns’ starting QB who will be reminded of his underwhelming Week 1 display against the Ravens, when Mayfield produced a QB rating of just 65.0. 

Currently sitting third in the AFC North, Baltimore will have to start picking up wins wherever they can if Lamar Jackson is to have another stab at Super Bowl glory. Last time out, Baltimore snapped a three-game losing streak as they overcame the doomed Dallas Cowboys to improve to 7-5 on the season. However, in that home outing, Jackson threw for just 107 yards as the pressure continues to mount on last year’s MVP. Ravens’ playoff hopes rely on Jackson rediscovering last season’s form, but can he find it against the Browns on Monday night? 

Tuesday 15th December 6:00PM GMT – Darts: William Hill World Darts Championship 2021

The PDC Tour’s flagship event begins on Tuesday – play begins on Day 1 from 6:00PM GMT. 

It is time to get the party started as the crème de la crème of the darting world descend on Alexandra Palace to battle for the sport’s biggest prize. Plenty of big names will be in action on Night 1 of this year’s competition, including reigning champion of the world Peter Wright. ‘Snakebite’ was crowned King of the Palace a year ago as he defeated Michael van Gerwen in the Final, but how far can the Scotsman go this time around?

Despite heading to ‘Ally Pally’ as defending champion, Peter Wright is only third favourite to go all the way this year, with Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price the two more likely runners. MvG’s win at the Players Championship Finals was the perfect preparation for this week’s showpiece event, as the world number one goes in search of a fourth World Championship title. Meanwhile, Gerwyn Price has presented himself as the most likely candidate to put an end to van Gerwen’s reign of dominance. The Welshman’s only title of 2020 came at the World Grand Prix in October, and he will be desperate to add the biggest prize of all to his crowded trophy cabinet. With Price and van Gerwen in opposite sides of the draw, they are on a collision course to meet in the Final, but you can be sure of a few shocks along the way at this special sporting occasion. 

Wednesday 16th December 8:00PM GMT – Football: Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur

The top two meet in a crucial Premier League showdown – kick-off is at 8:00PM GMT. 

In a clash that will have serious implications on this year’s title race, Liverpool prepare to host Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest games of the season. 

Last weekend, Tottenham handed the initiative to Liverpool after the Lilywhites faltered to a draw in a capital clash against Crystal Palace. However, the Reds failed to capitalise on Spurs’ slip, as they played out a 1-1 draw with Fulham on the banks of the Thames just a few hours later. Those two results mean it is as you were heading into Wednesday’s pivotal showdown, with Tottenham still top on account of their superior goal difference.

However, there are very few more daunting away trips than a date at Anfield right now, with the Reds currently enjoying a 65-game unbeaten streak at home in the Premier League. If recent trips to Anfield are anything to go by, there is little to suggest that Spurs will be the team to end that streak, having won there just once since the turn of the century.  

There will be plenty of goal-scoring prowess on display on Wednesday night, with three of the top four Premier League scorers likely to be involved at Anfield. Tallying up Mo Salah, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane’s goals this term, the three players have outscored every single team in the top flight – are we in for a midweek goal-fest? Tune in to find out!

Thursday 17th December 4:00AM GMT –Cricket: Australia v India 

Two of the best Test teams on the planet lock horns in the 1st Test at the Adelaide Oval – play is set to begin at 4:00AM GMT. 

Sitting pretty atop the Test rankings, Australia remain the team to beat in this particular format on the international stage. The ‘Baggy Greens’ are unbeaten in their last five Test series, having won three and drawn two.

Whilst the visitors will be well aware of their hosts’ impressive recent unbeaten run in Test series’, they will take encouragement from the fact that they were the last nation to defeat Australia in a Test series. India’s latest tour of Australia has produced a mix bag of results for the tourists, who will be looking to end the excursion in style. After initially losing the ODI series, India bounced back in some style to take the T20 series 2-1, setting up a finely poised Test clash this week. 

Thursday’s matchup will showcase some of the biggest names in the sport, including Steve Smith and Virat Kohli who are ranked first and third in the Test batting stakes. The two master craftsmen have been enjoying a personal duel during India’s tour of Australia, but who will prove the difference in this week’s matchup?

Friday 18th December 8:00PM GMT – Rugby Union: Wasps v Montpellier 

The European Rugby Champions Cup continues on Friday with an unmissable clash – kick-off comes at 8:00PM GMT. 

Two teams who are operating at opposite ends of the table meet at Ricoh Arena for a Friday night showdown. The hosts got off to the perfect start in their season opener against the Dragons last time out, when they ran out 24-8 winners on the road. With their Premiership form suffering, the Coventry-based outfit will be hoping for some respite during their Champions Cup ventures, and a second consecutive win in this competition would be very well received by Lee Blackett. The former player is looking to become the first Wasps coach to lift the Champions Cup title since Ian McGeechan achieved the feat way back in 2007. 

Meanwhile, Montpellier’s history in this competition is far less illustrious, having only made their Champions Cup bow in the 2011/12 season. The French side made a disastrous start to their latest Champions Cup campaign, after losing out 35-14 to Leinster in an opening day drubbing. With a points difference of -21, Montpellier currently sit rock bottom in Pool A and will be desperate to gather their first points sooner rather than later. Can they get their season back on track with a win on the road this week, or will Wasps inflict more pain on Friday night?

Saturday 19th December 4:00AM GMT (Sunday 20th) – Boxing: Canelo Álvarez v Callum Smith 

Boxing fans will be treated to another unmissable title fight this weekend – ring walks are expected around 4:00AM GMT on Sunday morning at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Two of the most exciting talents in the middleweight division will lock horns in San Antonio on Saturday, with both fighters putting plenty on the line, as they tussle for the WBA and WBC World Super Middle titles.

Callum Smith goes into Saturday’s showdown as the reigning WBA and Ring Magazine super-middleweight champion, and remains undefeated after 27 professional bouts. The Liverpool-born superstar has already successfully defended his belts on two occasions, most recently in a homecoming fight against John Ryder in November last year. However, Canelo will undoubtedly pose one of the biggest threats to Smith’s reign, as the Englishman finds himself in the unfamiliar position of being the underdog before the first bell. 

Though Smith can boast the greater knockout percentage, commentators would argue that Canelo has faced more high-profile opponents, and the Mexican is certainly no stranger to these showpiece events. With a record of 53-1-2, Canelo remains the most dangerous pound for pound boxer on the planet. The reigning WBA Super Middle champ became a four-division world champion in his last professional outing back in November, when he overcame Sergey Kovalev to take the light heavyweight title. With both fighters very much in their prime, you can expect a barnstormer in the States on Saturday!

Sunday 20th December 9:25PM GMT – American Football: New Orleans Saints v Kansas City Chiefs 

Two of the NFL’s best teams lock horns in a Sunday night clash – kick-off is at 9:25PM GMT at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

After recently putting together a nine-game unbeaten run, New Orleans Saints were handed their first loss since Week 3 last time out against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite that loss, the Saints remain top of the NFC South and have already booked their ticket to this year’s playoffs. Under the tutelage of Sean Payton, New Orleans have played postseason football for three straight years, but have failed to go further than the NFC Championship game in that time. However, as they push for a fourth-straight first-place finish in their division, will this finally be their year? 

A team who are no strangers to deep playoff runs are Kansas City Chiefs, who look in great shape to mount a successful title defence. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes has set about repaying the Chiefs after they rewarded him with the most lucrative contract in sports history. Kansas City’s starting quarterback leads the league in passing yards going into the 15th round of fixtures and already has 31 touchdowns to his name. However, it has to be said that Mahomes is blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to offensive options, with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill currently sitting second and third in receiving yards, respectively. Collectively, the Chiefs are currently enjoying the longest unbeaten run in the league having won eight in a row. This heavyweight clash pits the league’s best offence against the second-best defence, but who will come out on top?  

Other sporting highlights from around the globe

Honourable mentions from around the globe start with the cricket, as New Zealand and West Indies conclude the 2nd Test. There are plenty more blockbuster clashes in the Big Bash League this week, including Hobart Hurricanes versus Adelaide Strikers and Perch Scorchers versus Melbourne Stars, before Hobart return to action on Saturday for a meeting with the Melbourne Renegades. Elsewhere, the Lanka Premier League Final plays out on Wednesday. Back on the international stage, New Zealand and Pakistan will lock horns in the 1st T20I on Friday. 

The eyes of the footballing world will turn to Nyon on Monday, as the Europa League and Champions League draws are carried out for the Round of 32 and Round of 16, respectively. Back on the pitch, Wolverhampton Wanderers will be in action on Tuesday as they take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. Lyon meet Juventus in the Women’s Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday, with the former taking a 3-2 aggregate lead into the return leg. There is a top of the table clash in the Bundesliga on Wednesday which will see Bayern Munich take on Wolfsburg, before Barcelona meet Real Sociedad in La Liga on the same evening. Leicester versus Everton is the standout tie on a busy night of midweek Premier League action on Wednesday, whilst Inter Milan and Napoli do battle in Serie A. Bayern Munich are back in action on Saturday night as they travel to take on Bayer Leverkusen. Southampton will look to extend their impressive start to the campaign as they face Manchester City. Two teams tussling for position in the Eredivisie meet in Arnhem on Saturday as Vitesse entertain Feyenoord. Celtic and Hearts will contest the Scottish Cup Final at the weekend, whilst Tottenham and Leicester do battle south of the border in the Premier League. There is another offering from Italy’s top tier on Sunday which pits Sassuolo against AC Milan. 

Ocean Rowing fans will be fixated by the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which continues throughout the week. 

This week’s offering from the world of Snooker concerns the World Grand Prix which will play out at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. 

The LPGA Tour takes us to Tiburon Golf Club this weekend where the CME Group Tour Championship will be contested. 

The America’s Cup World Series will start on Thursday as the build-up to the biggest Sailing event in the world begins. The America’s Cup is due to start on 6th March 2021.

In Gymnastics, the Women’s European Artistic Championship will begin on Thursday and play out across the weekend. 

The IBF and IBO World Middleweight titles will be on the line on Friday night as Gennadiy Golovkin goes toe-to-toe with Kamil Szeremeta.

There is a typically hectic day of NCAA College Football action this Saturday, with Notre Dame’s meeting with Clemson and Florida’s clash with Alabama topping the bill. Meanwhile, in the NFL, the Washington Football Team will thrash it out with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday before the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns do battle on the very same evening. 

Rugby Union followers will be treated to a jam-packed schedule of action this week from across the sport’s biggest competitions. There is Friday night European Rugby Champions Cup action to watch out for as Scarlets take on RC Toulon. Three more ties headline Saturday’s action from the same competition, as La Rochelle meet Bath Rugby, ASM Clermont Auvergne take on Munster Rugby and Sale Sharks do battle with Edinburgh Rugby. Two more unmissable ties will play out the following day, as Stade Toulousain entertain Exeter Chiefs, and Connacht Rugby play host to Bristol Bears. There is Currie Cup action on Saturday too, which will see the Lions face off with the Sharks. 

A world-class week of sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!

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Photos by Cleveland Browns, Professional Darts Corporation, Liverpool Football Club, Cricket Australia, Wasps Rugby, Saul Alvarez, New Orleans Saints

Written and information correct on 13th December at 9pm GMT

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