This Week in Sport: 15th – 21st February 2021

This week’s sporting schedule takes us to all four corners of the globe, as we indulge in another thrilling seven days of action! It may be Valentine’s season, but there is no love lost between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers – the Sunshine State rivals meet in a Monday night NHL grudge match.

There’s a sweet treat for football fans on Shrove Tuesday, as Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain meet at Camp Nou in the Champions League Round of 16. Save some room for the Toffees … Carlo Ancelotti will not be giving up hope of securing a top four berth this term as his Everton side host Manchester City on Wednesday. There will be a battle of attrition in the Golden State on Thursday night as the Los Angeles Lakers welcome the Brooklyn Nets to the Staples Center.

An epic battle is unfolding off the coasts of Auckland as Team UK and Luna Rossa furiously contest the Prada Cup. In a busy week for Ancelotti’s men, Everton headline our schedule for a second time this week as they prepare for a derby date with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Saturday. Finally, it’s trophy day at the Australian Open on Sunday as the Mixed Doubles and Men’s Singles titles are handed out.

Monday 15th February 12:00AM GMT (Tuesday 16th) – Ice Hockey: Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers

The Central Division’s top two meet in another exhilarating NHL showcase – the action from the Amalie Arena begins at midnight GMT.

The three-game mini-series between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning will reach its thrilling conclusion on Monday night when the former make the cross-state trip for a derby date which holds significant playoff implications. These two titans of the NHL became well acquainted last week when they played out two electrifying affairs on the Panthers’ home ice at the BB&T Center. After the Panthers took the spoils in the initial meeting, the Lightning bounced back to some tune as they ran out 6-1 winners on Saturday night leaving them three points clear atop the Central Division standings. Those two results perfectly tee up Monday’s unmissable meeting which could see the Lightning consolidate their lead at the top, or the Panthers close the gap to a single point.

There were great expectations surrounding these two teams before a puck was dropped this term, and they certainly haven’t disappointed so far. Defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay have very much picked up where they left off last term, having lost only two games in regulation from their 13 outings. The Lightning rank in the top ten for both most goals scored and fewest conceded, and are showing similar form to that which took them all the way to Stanley Cup glory last time round. Meanwhile, their intra-state rivals have made a similarly impressive start to proceedings, winning eight of their first 12 fixtures, leaving Florida just three points off top spot in the Central Division. With 14 goals scored in the previous two meetings between these sides, you can expect fireworks in Florida on Monday night!

Tuesday 16th February 8:00PM GMT – Football: Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain

The Champions League returns with an absolute showstopper – kick-off at Camp Nou comes at 8:00PM GMT.

It’s been almost two and a half months since a ball was kicked in anger in this season’s Champions League, but football’s grandest club competition finally returns to our screens this week. In what is unquestionably the tie of this year’s Round of 16, Barcelona will take on Paris Saint-Germain for a place in next month’s Quarterfinals.

Extraordinarily, five-time winners Barcelona have reached the Quarter-final stages for 13 years straight, having last failed to progress past the Round of 16 in 2007. Domestically, no team in La Liga is currently enjoying a longer winning run than the Catalan giants, who have won seven-straight in Spain’s top tier. It will come as no surprise that Leo Messi has been instrumental to Barcelona’s impressive league form of late, with the Argentine magician netting eight times in his last five La Liga starts. His form in the group stages was not too shabby either, notching up five goal contributions in just four outings. Will Messi prove the difference once more on Tuesday as he looks to continue his march to a fifth Champions League title?

Meanwhile, for PSG, last year’s run to the Final was their best return from a Champions League campaign (their previous best was reaching the Semis in 1995), as they snapped an unwanted three-year record of being eliminated at the Round of 16 stage. Of course, the newly appointed Mauricio Pochettino knows what it takes to reach club football’s showpiece event, having guided Tottenham to the Final in 2019. Will he be the man to finally break Paris’ duck in this competition?

Football fans won’t soon forget what happened last time these great clubs met at this stage of the competition, when the game locally known as ‘La Remontada’ saw Barcelona overturn a 4-0 first leg deficit to progress. Will we witness another Camp Nou classic this week?

Wednesday 17th February 8:15PM GMT – Football: Everton v Manchester City

Can City extend their lead atop the Premier League in a potentially sticky tie against the Toffees at Goodison? Find out from 8:15PM GMT.

Two teams full of confidence will thrash it out in this midweek Premier League showdown, but which shade of blue will take the spoils?

Carlo Ancelotti will certainly have designs on guiding this Everton team to a top four finish for the first time since the 2004/05 season, and his side remain well in the hunt to do just that. Despite missing out on the chance to go level with Liverpool at the weekend, the Toffees remain just three points behind their local foes and are within touching distance of the Champions League spots. The amiable Italian’s impact on Merseyside has been clear for all to see as in this, his first full season, he needs just two more wins to match last season’s total of 13 with 16 games left to play. Weeks in the Premier League hardly come much tougher than this, but can Everton stake their top four claim against the champions elect?

No team on English soil currently find themselves in a richer vein of form than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who have recorded no fewer than 15 wins in a row in all competitions. Their most recent, a 3-0 win over Tottenham, saw the Sky Blues move 13 points clear of defending champions Liverpool, with Guardiola now charging towards a third title on these shores. Whilst Everton have proven a tough nut to crack this term, City have enjoyed great success against their Merseyside counterparts in recent seasons, having won each of the last five meetings.

Since losing to Tottenham in November, Manchester City have taken 41 Premier League points from a possible 45, but will their imperious march to the title be derailed on Wednesday night?

Thursday 18th February 3:00AM GMT (Friday 19th) – Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets

Old friends turn enemies in this NBA grudge match – tip-off at Staples Center comes at 3:00AM GMT on Friday.

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets will lead his team to Los Angeles this week to take on former team mate LeBron James and the LA Lakers in a pivotal cross-Conference matchup.

The hosts are one of the league’s form teams just now, having won seven straight games, a remarkable run which has placed them just 1.0 games behind Utah who sit atop the Western standings. When you combine their number two ranked defence alongside a field goal percentage of 48.6, the third best in the league, it is easy to see why the reigning champs are operating, once again, in the upper echelons of the Western Conference. The irresistible one-two punch of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is continuing to terrorise defences across the country as they average just over 48 points per game between them.

Meanwhile, the masterminds behind the Brooklyn Nets franchise are making waves of their own and are constructing something resembling a “super team”. Having recruited James Harden in an early-season trade, the Nets’ three-pronged attack of Harden, Kebin Durant and Irving is able to rival that of any offence found anywhere in the country. With the Nets currently boasting a shooting percentage of 49.7% from the field, no team is shooting the ball more effectively than Brooklyn, and with each of the big three averaging 20+ points per game, could the Nets franchise be heading for their first Finals appearance since 2003 this term? Many think not, as there is a dark cloud in Brooklyn and it looms ominously over the defensive end of the Barclays Center Court. For all of their offensive prowess, Brooklyn seem unable to plug the gaps in the defence, with only two teams giving up more points per game than Steve Nash’s men.

In the last 14 meetings between these two sides, the spoils have been shared with seven wins apiece – which side will tilt the record in their favour on Thursday night?

Friday 19th February 3:00AM GMT – Sailing: Prada Cup Final

Four races down, a possible nine left to run in the Prada Cup Final – can Team UK overturn the deficit in Auckland?

The first four races of this year’s Prada Cup Final have been contested and we have already witnessed plenty of thrills and spills across the first two days of action. Italy’s Luna Rossa have raced into a 4-0 lead over INEOS Team UK leaving them firmly in control of their own destiny ahead of the remaining races. With the Final a first-to-seven-wins series, the Italian outfit need just three more victories to secure their spot in the 36th America’s Cup match next month.

However, after local Covid restrictions saw the enforcement of a 72-hour lockdown in Auckland, the Prada Cup schedule has been thrown into disarray. Currently, organisers have postponed the third race day, initially arranged for Wednesday, meaning it is likely the seventh and eighth races, initially scheduled for Friday, will be pushed back, too. However, with Luna Rossa hurrying into a four-race lead, it is still a possibility that the Final will be concluded within the allotted time schedule, with Monday the day initially earmarked as the final race day.

After faltering in the opening heats last week, Ben Ainslie and Team UK have been left with plenty to chew on during the break from the water, with costly mistakes dealing their title hopes a severe blow in early on. However, with 16 America’s Cup wins and eight Olympic medals between the British team, it would be foolish to write them off just yet. Can Team UK pull off a minor miracle to reach the America’s Cup match, or will Luna Rossa finish the job when sailing resumes?

Saturday 20th February 5:30PM GMT – Football: Liverpool v Everton

A prominent Premier League rivalry is renewed on Saturday – the action gets underway at 5:30PM GMT.

Whilst there will be no fans in attendance, the 58th Premier League Merseyside derby promises to be as passionate as ever, as two teams desperate for points lock horns at Anfield. After a catastrophic capitulation late on against Leicester at the weekend, Liverpool were handed their third straight loss in the league as they gave up yet more ground to runaway leaders Manchester City. Even the most die-hard Liverpool fans would hasten to admit their dreams of going back-to-back are all but over, leaving Jurgen Klopp to realign his sights on a slightly more modest league position this term. The German’s misery could be compounded further before they return to action on Saturday as, should other results go against them, Liverpool could find themselves as low as sixth before kick-off on Saturday, leaving the Reds in the midst of a dog fight for Champions League qualification.

When comparing Everton to their local rivals, very few stats go in their favour in recent years. The Blues haven’t been victorious in this fixture since 2010, despite trying 23 times. They haven’t finished above Liverpool since the 2012/13 season. Everton won just four points more in the last two seasons than Liverpool did last year alone. However, enough of the doom and gloom, as there is a growing sense that, under the tutelage of serial winner Carlo Ancelotti, the good times are slowly returning to Goodison. With their FA Cup dreams still very much alive, Everton will look to consolidate their spot in the running for the Champions League places this weekend, and a win over the Reds could see Ancelotti’s men leapfrog their next door neighbours, depending on Wednesday’s result. In what could be a season-defining derby date, can Everton pull off a special win on their quest for the top four?

Sunday 21st February 5:00AM GMT – Tennis: Australian Open Day 14

The Mixed Doubles and Men’s Singles Finals will be contested at the Australian Open on Sunday.

The first Major of the season will be won and lost on Sunday, when only two men will be left standing to contest the top prize.

When assessing the runners and riders left in the competition, it is hard to look past eight-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic as favourite to feature in Sunday’s showpiece game. Despite having a slight wobble in his Third Round tie with Taylor Fritz, who took Djokovic all the way to a final set decider, the Serb proved his title credentials in his subsequent outing as he battled injury to overcome Canada’s hard-hitting Milos Raonic by three sets to one. However, the world number one will face his sternest test so far in his Quarter-final meeting with Alexander Zverev on Tuesday. After losing the very first set in his first outing against Marcos Giron, the masterful German has subsequently won nine sets in a row to book a Quarter-final date with Djokovic. Will Zverev have a say in Sunday’s Final as he eyes a maiden Major title? On the other side of the draw, Rafa Nadal might well be on his way to another final.

Prior to the day’s main event, patrons will be treated to the Mixed Doubles Final, a format which rarely disappoints when it comes to entertainment value. Still in the running to take the title on Sunday is back-to-back winner Barbora Krejčíková, who is once again flexing her muscles down under alongside Rajeev Ram of the USA. The eye-catching Krejčíková/Ram partnership has experience of going all the way in this competition, having won the 2019 title together in this format. Last year the pair went their separate ways, but the change in playing partners didn’t yield any less success for Krejčíková and Ram, as the former retained the Mixed Doubles title alongside Nikola Mektić, whilst Ram went all the way in the Men’s Doubles with Britain’s Joe Salisbury. This year, the dream team have reunited in an attempt to take silverware home for the third straight season, but can anyone stop them on their march to glory?

Other sporting highlights from around the globe

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the football, as Europe’s elite club competitions return to our screens. The return of Champions League football will be marked by a thrilling meeting between RB Leipzig and Liverpool on Tuesday. The Round of 16 continues with a double header on Wednesday, as FC Porto face Juventus whilst Sevilla entertain Borussia Dortmund. Two Premier League heavyweights headline Thursday’s crop of Europa League Round of 32 ties, as Manchester United travel to take on Real Sociedad whilst Arsenal go up against Benfica. A Friday instalment of Premier League action will see Wolves play host to Leeds at Molineux. Four more fixtures headline a busy weekend of top-flight action, starting on the south coast where Southampton will face Chelsea on Saturday. A London derby will open the show on Super Sunday as West Ham do battle with Tottenham, before Aston Villa meet Leicester and Arsenal entertain Man City. Strap in for another Milan derby this weekend – Inter and AC Milan lock horns on Sunday. Two more Serie A heavyweights in the shape of Atalanta and Napoli will thrash it out on the same day at Gewiss Stadium. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich will look to extend their lead atop the Bundesliga tree when they travel to face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. There is plenty of excitement surrounding the Women’s game currently with the imminent return of the SheBelieves Cup. The 2021 edition will get underway with two unmissable matchups which will see Brazil take on Argentina and USA tussle with Canada. The second round of fixtures will play out on Sunday, when USA play Brazil and Argentina face Canada.

Another hectic week of NBA action begins in Salt Lake City where the Utah Jazz will take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. The Boston Celtics are in action the following evening as they take to the court with the Denver Nuggets, all the while the Phoenix Suns will be facing off with the Nets. Utah return to the court on Wednesday night when they will meet the Clippers in LA, before the two sides do it all over again two days later. A pivotal home stand for the Clippers this week ends with a showdown against the Nets on Sunday evening.

Don’t miss all the action on the UCI World Tour as Day 1 of the UAE Tour plays out on Sunday before the competition rolls into next week.

Miguel Berchelt will look to defend his WBC Super Featherweight title against unbeaten challenger Oscar Valdez in Vegas on Saturday night. Meanwhile, across the pond, home crowd favourite Josh Kelly will take on David Avanesyan for the EBU European Welterweight title at Wembley Arena.

There’s a mouth-watering NHL clash near the summit of the West Division on Tuesday night as the Vegas Golden Knights face off with the Colorado Avalanche, before the sides meet once more at the weekend. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be out for revenge when they travel to face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. We close out the week with an unmissable grudge match between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.

On the PGA Tour, Adam Scott will look to defend his Genesis Invitational title in Pacific Palisades this week – the action at Riviera Golf Course gets underway on Thursday.

The Alpine World Ski Championships enters its second week on Monday, with the action from the Dolomites coming throughout the week.

Mark Selby, Judd Trump and plenty more big names will be in action at Snooker's Welsh Open – the competition unfolds through the week, culminating in Sunday’s Final.

The Australian Open continues in Melbourne this week, but which players will still be in the running at the weekend?

This week’s busy Rugby Union agenda starts off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, where Reds will face Waratahs in a opening weekend Super Rugby AU showdown on Friday. Saturday’s bill is headlined by three unmissable Premiership clashes in the shape of: Harlequins versus Sale Sharks, Exeter Chiefs versus Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers against Wasps. Pro14 Rugby then takes centre stage later on Saturday as Connacht Rugby entertain Cardiff Blues at the Galway Sportsgrounds. The final act of this week’s Premiership display features an electrifying matchup between London Irish and Bristol Bears.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour takes us to Torun, Poland this week, where the Copernicus Cup will play out.

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

Fixture

Photos by Tampa Bay Lightning, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Brooklyn Nets, America's Cup, Liverpool Football Club, Australian Open

Written and information correct on 14th February at 9pm GMT

 

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