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

This week brings another extensive mix of unmissable sporting action for your delectation! The thrilling 36th America’s Cup Match reaches the fourth day of action on Monday, when races 7 and 8 will be won and lost. The biggest spectacle in the jump racing calendar begins on Tuesday as Cheltenham Racecourse welcomes the world’s best runners and riders for the 2021 Festival. Champions League football takes centre stage on Wednesday night when Chelsea will take on Atletico Madrid for a spot in the last eight. 

Aussie Rules Football returns to our screens on Thursday, with Richmond’s clash against Carlton at the MCG representing the first clash of the brand-new AFL season. Get your brackets at the ready – March Madness gets underway this week, with the First Round playing out from Friday. Wales will look to clinch the Six Nations Grand Slam on Saturday when they take on France in Saint-Denis. The week’s action draws to a close at the King Power Stadium, where Leicester and Manchester United will contest an unmissable FA Cup Quarter-final tie. 

Monday 15th March 3:12AM GMT – Sailing: 36th America’s Cup Day 4

Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are entangled in a thrilling duel in the 36th America’s Cup Match – Race 7 gets underway at 3:12AM GMT. 

Though fans were left to wait a little longer for the sport’s showpiece event to get underway, the 36th America’s Cup Match is already developing into one of the more memorable matchups in recent memory. After Sunday’s schedule was disrupted with wind speeds failing to surpass the minimum level of 6.5 knots required, the members of team New Zealand and Luna Rossa will return to the waters refreshed on Monday as they tackle another two races.

With six races already in the ledger, there is nothing to split these two great teams of world-class sailors, as the scores remain locked at three points apiece. In fact, there has been absolutely nothing to split the challenger and defender, with each individual race day ending 1-1. Sunday’s abandonment means the match will continue until at least Tuesday, but can either side get their noses in front in this best-of-13 series on Monday? 

Luna Rossa have already created their own piece of history in this year’s match as, after winning their third race of the series in race 5, the Italian outfit became just the seventh challenger to secure three or more wins in 170 years of America’s Cup action. However, the job is far from done for Luna Rossa, who are four wins away from what would be a momentous victory on foreign waters. 

With weather forecasts predicting wind speeds of up to 14 knots on Monday afternoon in Auckland, Day 4 could prove one of the most thrilling day’s of action in this year’s America’s Cup!

Tuesday 16th March 1:20PM GMT – Horse Racing: Cheltenham Festival 

Four days of elite jump racing action begins at Cheltenham on Tuesday as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ gets underway. 

For many years, Cheltenham Festival has been the pinnacle of UK jump racing and whilst this year’s landscape will look a little different, racing fans are still promised four days of world-class action at one of the most hallowed venues in the land. After what has been a turbulent couple of weeks in the world of horse racing, fans and jockeys alike will be desperate to rediscover what this grand sport is truly all about and make it all about the racing once more. With 28 races in all scheduled for this year’s Festival, you needn’t be anywhere else this week! 

The curtain will open on Tuesday when seven races will be contested, with the day’s action headlined by the Unibet Champion Hurdle. Tuesday’s big race will feature some of the most decorated horses in the game, not least Epatante, who will be line up in the starting gate as defending champion after winning this race at last year’s Festival. Epatante’s trainer Nicky Henderson has form for winning this race in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2017 and 2018 with Buveur d’Air. Whilst Henderson remains the most successful trainer in Champion Hurdle history, commentators believe his Epatante will face much stiffer opposition this time around, but can they record another famous victory on Day 1 of the Festival?  

Unquestionably the highlight of the week comes on Day 4, when the renowned Gold Cup will be won and lost. In the history of this great race, only four horses have ever won three years in a row, but Willie Mullins’ Al Boum Photo will be presented with the chance to become the fifth on Friday. Al Boum Photo has stuck with its winning formula of racing on New Year’s Day before being rested all the way up until Cheltenham – a formula which has proved successful in two straight years. Will the dynamic duo make it a hat-trick of wins on Friday?

Wednesday 17th March 8:00PM GMT – Football: Chelsea v Atletico Madrid 

Chelsea takes a slim lead into the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 fixture against Atlético Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on Wednesday 17th March 2021 at 8:00PM GMT.

Chelsea and Atletico will meet again on Wednesday night when one side will secure safe progression to the Champions League Quarterfinals. It is the English side who currently hold the edge in this tie, with Olivier Giroud’s second-half wonder strike enough to give the Blues a slender one goal advantage heading into Wednesday’s return leg. However, Chelsea fans will be all too aware that in each of their last four appearances at this competition, they have been dumped out at this very stage, having last progressed past the Round of 16 back in 2014 en route to the Semis. Coincidentally, that impressive run was ended by the very same Atletico Madrid side they are faced with this time around, but can Thomas Tuchel provide the winning formula to exact revenge on the Spanish giants? 

For a team which prides themselves on an impervious defence, Diego Simeone would have been troubled by the manner in which they handed the initiative to Chelsea in that first leg, which has left the Argentine with it all to do in London this week. Despite failing to overcome Getafe at the weekend, Atletico extended their unbeaten streak to four matches, and remain top of the pile in Spain’s La Liga. However, as attentions return to the European scene, Atletico supporters will be desperate for another deep run in this competition, with this famous trophy one of the very few still to elude this great club. Astonishingly, not since 1996 have Atletico lost the first leg of a knockout game in this competition, but can they overturn the slender deficit to continue their European tour? 

Thursday 18th March 8:25AM GMT – Australian Rules Football: Richmond v Carlton 

The curtain rises on the new AFL season at the MCG on Thursday with kick-off coming at 8:25AM GMT. 

Reigning and defending back-to-back Premiership champions Richmond FC will welcome Carlton to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a fixture which marks the start of the brand-new AFL season. 

In a repeat of last season’s opening fixture, Richmond will be hoping to record the perfect start as they set about on their quest to win three-straight Premierships for the first time in the club’s history. Having now won three of the last four Premierships, Richmond remain the team to beat in this prestigious competition, but even the most pessimistic of Richmond supporters will not envision opening day defeat in what should be one of the more predictable opening round ties. The Tigers are currently enjoying a 10-game winning streak over their local rivals, a winning run which stretches all the way back to 2014.

Despite recording their highest finish in seven years last term, it was another season of mid-table mediocrity for Carlton, who ended up 11th and a mere 28 points behind the table toppers. With their last Grand Final appearance coming all the way back in 1999, Carlton are long overdue a noteworthy season, but there is little to suggest this year will be any different for the Melbourne-based outfit. Can they spring an opening-night surprise to shock the reigning champs? 

Friday 19th March 8:00PM GMT – Basketball: March Madness

It is the most significant month in the NCAA College Basketball calendar – the First Round at March Madness gets underway on Friday in Indiana. 

As continues to be the case with many sporting spectacles around the globe, this year’s edition of March Madness will be unlike any other. In place of the customary state-hopping which usually accompanies this great competition, the entire schedule comprising of 67 matches in all will be played out in Indiana, with the vast majority taking place in Indianapolis. 68 teams will be making the trip to the Midwest, but which should you be keeping a particularly close eye on? 

You don’t need to be especially knowledgeable about the inner workings of College Basketball to know that a record of 24 wins and 0 losses is pretty good. That record belongs to the Gonzaga Bulldogs who won all of their regular season outings and even picked up a couple of notable scalps along the way, including that of number five ranked Iowa back in December. Since Mark Few took the reigns at Gonzaga back in 1999, the Bulldogs have finished first in the West Coast Conference standings in 20 of the subsequent 22 seasons. However, Gonzaga are yet to go all the way in the NCAA Tournament, having come closest in a 2017 National Championship defeat to North Carolina. With this Gonzaga’s 22nd straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, can the #1 ranked Bulldogs finally break their duck?

Another side looking to make waves at March Madness is Michigan, a school long overdue a second National Championship. The Wolverines’ last and only victory came all the way back in 1989 and, despite competing in four National Championship games since, most recently in 2018, they have thus far failed to add to their collection. However, having topped the Big 10 standings for the first time in seven seasons this time around, Michigan will certainly be one to watch as we head into the biggest month in College Basketball. After reaching the Final Four in the most recent edition, can the Wolverines go two better this time around to notch an historic second National Championship? 

Saturday 20th March 8:00PM GMT – Rugby Union: France v Wales 

It’s crunch time in this year’s Six Nations as two title contenders lock horns at the Stade de France – the action begins at 8:00PM GMT. 

After the latest crop of results, which included a resounding win for Wales over Italy, the table-toppers moved one step closer to claiming Grand Slam glory at this year’s Championship. However, despite defeat for France last weekend, the hosts still remain in the hunt to claim a sixth Six Nations title win, but can they keep their dreams alive on Saturday?

After France’s narrow loss to England last time out, Wales head into the final round of fixtures as the only unbeaten side left in the competition. There are often several caveats and conditions heading into week 5 at the Six Nations, as fans ponder who needs to beat who for their side to reign supreme. For Wales, the equation is far simpler – avoid defeat in France and the title is theirs. Whilst a draw would be enough, a win in Saint-Denis would see Wales crowned Grand Slam champions for the second time in the past three editions, a feat last achieved by the French in 2002 and 2004.

Despite holding a game in hand over their Welsh counterparts, France have left themselves with a mountain to climb after last weekend’s dramatic loss at Twickenham. Les Bleus’ Grand Slam hopes were very much alive at the halfway stage on Saturday, when they led the hosts by 17 points to 13. However, in what was a breathless encounter, England’s Maro Itoje broke the try line in the 77th minute to break French hearts and leave them with more than a mountain to climb if they are to reclaim the Six Nations Championship. Saturday’s hosts must overcome Wales with a bonus point win to keep their title hopes alive, a result which is not out of the question, after France recorded a resounding 38-21 victory in their last meeting with Wales at Stade de France back in October. That would leave France needing to win their game in hand against Scotland, potentially with an added bonus point, but head coach Fabien Galthié will first devote his undivided attention to Saturday’s pivotal clash. 

Can Wales claim a famous and unlikely Grand Slam victory, or can Les Bleus keep us waiting to find out who will take the prestigious title? 

Sunday 21st March 5:00PM GMT – Football: Leicester City v Manchester United 

Two Premier League giants lock horns in the FA Cup Quarterfinals – find out which side progresses at the King Power from 5:00PM GMT. 

Leicester City and Manchester United will step aside from the fiery domestic race for Champions League football this weekend, as attentions turn to matters of silverware.  

Besides having to rely on an injury-time winner against Brighton in the last round, the Foxes have reached the Quarterfinals of this year’s competition relatively unscathed, having conceded just one goal in their three FA Cup outings thus far. Unfortunately for the Leicester faithful, this is as far as they’ve come in recent seasons, having last appeared in an FA Cup Semi-final all the way back in 1982. However, with Leicester still on course to record their highest Premier League finish this term since the title-winning season, Foxes fans will be hoping their side can carry that momentum over into the cup competitions as they start to dream of a virtual trip to Wembley in the near future. For those dreams to come true, Rodgers’ side will have to overturn a dismal run of form against Manchester United, against whom the Foxes have won just one of the last 25 meetings!

No team has endured a tougher run to this year’s Quarterfinals than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils, who have already seen off Liverpool and West Ham en route to the last eight. Though United have been handed home advantage in each of their three FA Cup outings this term, the Old Trafford faithful could be grateful for a trip away from the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, with most of United’s good work this term coming on the road. Domestically, the Red Devils are currently enjoying a 22-game unbeaten run away from home, winning 14 of those matches. As their gruelling FA Cup schedule continues, can Solskjaer overcome Premier League opposition in the FA Cup for the third time to book a Wembley date next month?

These two famous clubs of the English game last met in the FA Cup all the way back in 1976, when United ran out 2-1 winners en route to the cup Final. 

Other sporting highlights from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the NBA, where another pivotal crop of fixtures are set to play out across the upcoming seven days. The action gets underway in the Lone Star State where the Dallas Mavericks will take on the Los Angeles Clippers in a Monday night offering – the two sides meet once more at the American Airlines Center two nights later. We then journey east for the next instalment of NBA action which will see the Philadelphia 76ers face off with the Milwaukee Bucks at the fortress that is Wells Fargo Center. Milwaukee will return home on Saturday as they prepare to host the San Antonio Spurs at Fiserv Forum. Meanwhile, the high-flying Phoenix Suns will make an outing on home court at the weekend when they welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to PHX Arena. 

March Madness officially gets underway on Thursday as the First Four round of games play out. There is plenty more on offer from the 2021 NCAA Tournament across the weekend with First Round games coming on Saturday, before the Second Round begins in earnest on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Women’s edition will also get underway across the weekend, with the initial First Round ties scheduled for Sunday. 

On what is another pivotal weekend of Rugby Union action, we’ve picked out ten standout clashes not to be missed. Week 14 of this Premiership season begins in Newcastle on Friday night when the Falcons entertain Wasps at Kingston Park Stadium. The reigning champs are in action on Saturday as Exeter Chiefs face Leicester Tigers. Meanwhile, table-topping Bristol Bears travel to face Northampton Saints on Sunday, whilst Sale Sharks and London Irish do battle in Manchester. There are two crucial Super Rugby Aotearoa fixtures to watch out for across the weekend, as the Hurricanes host the Chiefs on Saturday before the Blues entertain the Crusaders the following day. The Pro14 Rugby season continues on Friday when Leinster Rugby will do battle with the Ospreys. It’s opening weekend in Major League Rugby, with two captivating fixtures headlining the action. San Diego Legion will first meet Rugby United New York on Saturday, before reigning back-to-back champions the Seattle Seawolves get their campaign underway against the Houston SaberCats later that day. There is action on the international stage too as Ireland meet England on Saturday in a Six Nations showdown. 

This week’s NRL offering will see two significant fixtures play out as the Eels face the Storm on Thursday before the Sharks meet the Raiders on Sunday. 

The Premier League champions kick-off the week’s action from the world of football as Liverpool make the trip to Molineux to take on Wolves. Two captivating Champions League fixtures are scheduled for Tuesday night with Manchester City set to face Borussia Mönchengladbach whilst Real Madrid go head-to-head with Atalanta for a place in the Quarterfinals. The defending champs are in action the following evening when Bayern Munich will look to finish the job against Lazio, with the former taking a 4-1 lead into the second leg. With the aggregate score at 1-1, Rangers’ Europa League tie with Slavia Prague is on a knife-edge – which side will progress on Thursday night? It’s a similar story for Manchester United who will travel to the San Siro with plenty of work to do after AC Milan took a share of the spoils at Old Trafford last week. Two of Bundesliga’s form teams lock horns on Saturday afternoon when Eintracht Frankfurt welcome 1. FC Union Berlin to Waldstadion. Three more sides will secure their spot in this year’s FA Cup Semifinals at the weekend as Bournemouth face Southampton, Everton take on Manchester City and Chelsea go head-to-head with Sheffield United. Meanwhile, Barcelona will make the arduous journey to Basque Country for a La Liga meeting with Real Sociedad on Sunday. Rangers’ SPL coronation begins behind enemy lines on Sunday as they take on Celtic in the latest Old Firm Derby. Two heavyweights of Italian football are in Serie A action on Sunday when Roma will take to the field with fellow Champions League-chasers Napoli. Don’t miss Sunday’s Premier League double header featuring West Ham’s clash with Arsenal and Aston Villa’s meeting with Spurs. 

It’s another typically hectic week of NHL action across North America, all starting on Tuesday when the Washington Capitals will thrash it out with the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets will meet in a two-game mini-series this week, with the sides set to face off on Thursday and Saturday. Two contenders in the Central Division will do battle on Sunday evening as the Tampa Bay Lightning entertain the Florida Panthers. 

There are two unmissable competitions set to play out on the ATP World Tour this week, coming in the shape of the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships at Aviation Club Tennis Centre in Dubai. Meanwhile, there is more silverware up for grabs for the stars of the WTA World Tour this week as they thrash out the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy all through the week.   

The high-octane Sumo March Tournament continues with Day 2’s matches on Monday, with plenty more action unfolding throughout the week in Osaka!

With the Premier League fast approaching, all the movers and shakers on the PDC Tour will be looking for the perfect preparation at this week’s Super Series 2.

Cricket fans will have plenty more international action to sink their teeth into this week, starting with Tuesday’s 3rd T20I between India and England in Ahmedabad. The two great cricketing nations will lock horns twice more later in the week, with the pivotal 4th and 5th T20Is scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, respectively. India’s female representation will also be preparing for another busy week – their white ball series with South Africa continues with the 5th ODI on Wednesday. The two sides then turn their attentions to T20 matters across the weekend, when the 1st and 2nd T20Is will be thrashed out. In international one day cricket action, New Zealand meet Bangladesh in the 1st ODI at University of Otago Oval. Meanwhile, the purists will be eagerly anticipating Sunday’s matchup which pits West Indies against Sri Lanka on Day 1 of the 1st Test in Antigua and Barbuda. 

As the new AFL season is ushered in, the fixtures will begin to come thick and fast, with the standout clash this week seeing Collingwood entertain the Western Bulldogs on Friday. 

Whilst you may not be able to visit your local course, you can get your golf fix across the weekend with some PGA Tour action as The Honda Classic plays out at PGA National Resort. Meanwhile, the European Tour takes us to Karen Country Club in Nairobi, Kenya this weekend where the highly anticipated Magical Kenya Open will be contested. 

Keep up if you can with the electrifying action from the UCI World Tour as the Tirreno-Adriatico race continues on Monday and Tuesday. We stay on Italian shores on Saturday when the Milano-Sanremo race will get underway. Meanwhile, one of the showpiece races on the UCI Women’s World Tour begins on Sunday in the shape of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio.

It’s another busy Saturday in the world of boxing, with three standout bouts scheduled to take place. England’s Lawrence Okolie will have his sights set on becoming a world champion boxer when he takes on Krzysztof Glowacki at Wembley Arena for the vacant WBO World Cruiser Title. Another belt will be up for grabs when two Texans in the shape of Vergil Ortiz Jr and Maurice Hooker take to the squared circle to contest the WBO International Welter Title. Meanwhile, undefeated light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will look to defend his WBC and IBF World Light Heavy titles against Germany’s Adam Deines in Moscow.  

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


Photos by 36th America’s Cup, Cheltenham Racecourse, Chelsea FC, Richmond, Gonzaga Men's Basketball, Welsh Rugby Union, Leicester City

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

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