This Week in Sport: 17th – 23rd May 2021

Get ready for a phenomenal week of sport. On Monday, the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins for Game 2 of their first round NHL playoffs clash. Tuesday sees Chelsea and Leicester City meet for a vital Premier League match just days after their FA Cup Final clash. On Wednesday, the riders of the Giro d’Italia battle it out across a grueling hill stage. Thursday is the start of four days of elite golfing action as the PGA Championships get underway. And the week is rounded out by the conclusion of the NBA play-in tournament on Friday.

Entering the weekend, La Rochelle and Stade Toulousain face off in an all-French Champions Cup Final. Sunday brings the continuation of the F1 season and the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.

Patrice Bergeron for the Boston BruinsMonday 17th May 11:30PM GMT – Ice Hockey: Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins

As the first round of the NHL playoffs continue, the Washington Capitals welcome the Boston Bruins back to Capital One Arena in Washington DC for Game 2 of their series on Monday 17th May 2021 at 11:30PM GMT.

As is playoff history tradition between these two sides, Game 1 of the series was decided in overtime. Thanks to a goal from Nic Dowd, his 12th of the season, the Capitals came away with a series lead and a 3-2 win. The playoff history between the Capitals and Bruins is not an extensive one, yet it is a storied one. The most notable piece of that history is the first round of the 2012 playoffs, which saw the defending champion Bruins shocked by the 7th seed Capitals in seven games.

Now trailing, the Bruins will look to their stars to even the series. Veteran forward Brad Marchand has 69 points this season, and three of his teammates are having 40+ point seasons. They have the talent to overcome the Capitals, it is now a question of securing the necessary results.

The Capitals, who crashed out of the playoffs in the first round last year, will be eager to increase their lead over Boston. Led by long-time captain Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals have a 50-point player in Nicklas Backstrom and three 40+ point players, including Ovechkin. They also finished above Boston in the regular season standings, though they split their eight games with the Bruins equally.

Expect nothing to be held back in the US capital.

Youri Tielemans scoring for Leicester City in the FA Cup FinalTuesday 18th May 7:15PM GMT – Football: Chelsea v Leicester City

In a vital match for the Premier League standings, Chelsea host Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on Tuesday 18th May 2021 at 7:15PM GMT.

This is going to be a grudge match with everything on the line. It has been just two days since Leicester’s historic, emotional win over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. Now, they play for position in the penultimate fixture of their Premier League campaigns.

Leicester City enter the week in third place. With 66 points, the Foxes are in a precarious position – simultaneously finding themselves within striking distance of a top-three finish and losing out on Champions League football thanks to the competitiveness of the league. Alongside the likes of reliable veterans like Jamie Vardy, it has been a season of breakouts for Leicester. Kelechi Iheanacho, who had just nine league goals in his first three seasons at Leicester, has eleven this season alone. Similarly, FA Cup hero, Youri Tielemans has doubled his goal tally from a season ago. Things are coming to fruition in Leicester and if they can beat Chelsea once more, they will be rewarded with a guaranteed top-three finish.

Two points behind Leicester, Chelsea put themselves in a strong position for a top-three finish with a win. It will be a remarkable testament to the turnaround engineered by Thomas Tuchel, who has taken Chelsea from 9th to 4th since taking over in late January. Chelsea have not been standout goalscorers this season, boasting the third-lowest tally in the top-half of the table, but with four players tied for top club scorer in the league, their biggest strength is that a goal can come from anywhere.

With third place on the line, expect an unforgettable match.

Egan Bernal cycles the Giro d'ItaliaWednesday 19th May 11:10AM GMT – Cycling: Giro d’Italia Stage 11

The Giro d’Italia continues, with the race’s 11th stage taking riders 162km from Perugia to Montalcino in northern Italy on Wednesday 19th May 2021, beginning at 11:10AM GMT.

After the first rest day of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, the racers return to the saddle for one of the more challenging stages of the race. Spanning 162km, stage 11 will take the race south-west from the ancient cultural hub of Perugia to the small hill town of Montalcino. With an altitude gain of nearly 2500m and four sections of unpaved road that make up half of the route’s final 70km, this stage promises to push riders to their limits.

2019 Tour de France winner Egan Bernal enters the week in the pink jersey following a phenomenal stage on Sunday. Bernal, who had begun Sunday in third place and 16 seconds off the lead, stormed to victory in the race’s first mountain stage. He know holds a lead of 15 seconds over Remco Evenepoel.  

As for the pre-race favourites, Britain’s Hugh Carthy is sixth, 44 seconds behind Bernal. Young Hungarian star Attila Valter, who held the pink jersey between stages six and eight, drops to fifth and 43 seconds off the lead. As for Simon Yates, the TeamBikeExchange rider is ninth, nearly a full minute off Bernal’s time.

However, the lengthy and demanding eleventh stage could completely change the landscape of the race.

Rory McIlroy in the PGA ChampionshipThursday 20th May 12:00PM GMT – Golf: PGA Championship

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island plays host to one of the biggest events on the golfing calendar – the PGA Championship. Play begins on Thursday 20th May 2021 at 12:00PM GMT.

For the next four days, Kiawah Island off the coast of South Carolina will play host to the best of the best in the world of golf. The PGA Championship will be the fourth Major of the six-Major ‘Super Season’ and is expected to be a highlight of the season.

49 of the world’s top-50 ranked golfers will be in attendance, including 16 past winners of the PGA Championship. These winners are incredibly varied, from 2020 winner Collin Morikawa to 1991 winner John Daly to legends of the sport like two-time tournament winner Vijay Singh.

A lot of players are eager to succeed at Kiawah Island. Past winner Rory McIlory is hoping that a recent run of strong form will help him break his Major drought he has been stuck in since 2014. Similarly, Jordan Spieth is looking to not only secure his career grand slam, but also break a Major drought that stretches back to 2017. As for defending champion Morikawa, he has his sights set on mounting the 12th successful title defence in tournament history. The last back-to-back champion was Brooks Koepka in 2018 and 2019.

You won’t want to miss a single swing at this tournament.

Friday 21st May TBC – Basketball: Western Conference Play-in Final

The eighth seed of the NBA’s Western Conference will be decided as either the Los Angeles Lakers or Golden State Warriors host the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference play-in Final on Friday 21st May 2021 at a time to be decided.

The NBA added an extra step to the playoffs this season – a play-in tournament where the seventh through tenth seeds of each conference would play each other for the seventh and eighth seedings in the playoffs. The regular season seventh seed plays the regular season eighth seed to determine the playoff seventh seed. The loser of that game then plays the winner of a game between the regular ninth and tenth seeds to determine the playoff eighth seed.

The hosts for this eighth seed decider will be either the Los Angeles Lakers or Golden State Warriors. While initially shocking that the defending NBA champion Lakers have to fight for an appearance in the playoffs at all, injuries have ravaged the team lead by superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, MVP candidate Steph Curry has nearly single-handedly carried the Warriors back to the playoffs, putting up over 30 points per game this season.

The challenger will be either the Memphis Grizzlies or San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies earned a winning record and a chance at playoff basketball for the first time 2017. This is largely thanks to a dependable starting five led by last season’s rookie of the year, Ja Morant. For the Spurs, 11-year veteran DeMar DeRozan leads a very young Spurs team back to the playoffs as San Antonio continues their rebuilding efforts.

Tune in to find out who will earn the final place in the Western Conference playoffs proper, and first round matchup against the first-seed Utah Jazz.

Dany Priso and Geoffrey Doumayrou for the Stade RochelaisSaturday 22nd May 3:45PM GMT – Rugby Union: La Rochelle v Stade Toulousain

The European Rugby Champions Cup sees an all-French Final as La Rochelle meet Stade Toulousain at Twickenham in London on Saturday 22nd May 2021 at 3:45PM GMT.

For the first time since 2015, two French teams will meet in the Final of the Champions Cup and once more, Twickenham will play host to such a Final.

La Rochelle has never been considered a powerhouse of French rugby. They have never won the Top 14, their best result in continental competition was finishing runners-up in the 2019 Challenge Cup Final. But this year, La Rochelle has become a force to be reckoned with. Second in the Top 14 and they have been unstoppable in the Champions Cup. After finishing fourth in their pool behind Leinster, Wasps, and Bordeaux, La Rochelle took the knockout stage by storm. They saw off Gloucester, Sale, and in most possibly the biggest moment in club history, Leinster. This has been thanks to the reliable leg of Ihaia West and seven try-scorers led by Raymond Rhule. It’s time for Les Corsaires to prove their place at the pinnacle of European rugby.

Stade Toulousain are four-time winners of the Champions Cup, last taking the title in 2010. They have returned to the top of French rugby in recent years and currently lead the Top 14. Their journey through the Champions Cup began with a third-place finish in the pool stage behind compatriots Lyon and Racing 92. After a win against Munster, Toulouse began an all-French gauntlet to the Final, beating out Clermont and Bordeaux to return to the title match for the first time in over a decade. Led by the try scoring of Antoine Dupont, Toulouse are ready to take the throne at the top of European rugby.

The question remains - which French team will win out?

Formula 1 Monaco Grand PrixSunday 23rd May 1:00PM GMT – Motorsport: F1 Monaco Grand Prix

The F1 season continues with one of its most prestigious races. The Monaco Grand Prix takes to the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo on Sunday 23rd May 2021 at 1:00PM GMT.

Monaco. Perhaps the greatest jewel in the sport of Formula One. The narrow circuit full of elevation changes and tight corners is one of the most challenging in motor racing. While cancelled last year, the race makes its glorious, and much-anticipated return.

Coming into Monaco, there is a bona fide battle for first in the Driver’s Championship. Lewis Hamilton holds a 14-point lead over Max Verstappen thanks to three race wins and a second-place finish. Verstappen has three second-place finishes and a race win. Behind them, there is a steep drop-off to the close battle for third place between Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris, and Charles Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton is the defending race champion, taking the win at the overcast 2019 edition of the race. However it is Max Verstappen who holds the race lap record, which he set in 2018. Now the two of them are the frontrunners heading into this race.

Monaco is always a highlight of the F1 calendar, and this year’s race promises to be particularly special.

Other highlights around the globe

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the plethora of football fixtures this week. Many leagues are coming to an end this week. In the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur try to secure European football next season with matches against Aston Villa and Leicester. Liverpool look to do the same with fixtures versus Burnley and Crystal Palace. Chelsea finish their season against Aston Villa.

In Serie A, AC Milan pushing for a top four finish in a season Finale against Atalanta. Real Madrid will look to secure a title defence on the Final day of the La Liga season as they play Villarreal. Bayer 04 Leverkusen will fight for a place in Europe with a Bundesliga finale against Borussia Dortmund. In the Final of Scottish Cup, St. Johnstone and Hibernian will face off for the title.

Some football competitions are only just beginning. In the MLS, the New England Revolution host the New York Red Bulls. Meanwhile, in the NWSL, there is a Cascadia Rivalry match as the Portland Thorns play the OL Reign. Elsewhere, the North Carolina Courage take on the Orlando Pride.

In Ice Hockey, the NHL playoffs continue throughout the week. The Carolina Hurricanes face the Nashville Predators, the Colorado Avalanche play the St. Louis Blues, the Vegas Golden Knights take on the Minnesota Wild, the Pittsburgh Penguins meet the New York Islanders, it’s an all-Florida series as the Florida Panthers challenge the defending-champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Edmonton Oilers face the Winnipeg Jets, and the Toronto Maple Leafs go head-to-head with the Montreal Canadiens. The week also sees the start of the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Riga.

It’s a busy week in rugby union. In the Gallagher Premiership, Newcastle Falcons host Northampton Saints, Bristol Bears host Gloucester, and London Irish take on Exeter Chiefs. In the Final of the European Challenge Cup  Leicester Tigers meet Montpellier. In the Rainbow Cup SA, the Sharks are due to the play the Stormers. Staying in the southern hemisphere, the Reds take on the Crusaders in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

There is also plenty of Major League Rugby to enjoy as the Austin Gilgronis face the LA Giltinis, the NOLA Gold face the Utah Warriors, and Rugby United New York host the New England Free Jacks.

Rugby League boasts plenty of action to enjoy as well. It’s a double fixture week for Catalans Dragons in the Super League as they take on Hull FC and St. Helens. In the NRL, the Rabbitohs play the Panthers.

For cricket fans, there is both County Championship action and international play to enjoy. Gloucestershire host Somerset while Sri Lanka’s tour of Bangladesh continues.

In basketball, the WNBA season plays its first full week while the NBA playoffs begin with the conference play-in tournaments and the start of the first round.

In the world of cycling, the Giro d’Italia will start the week in L’Aquila and finish 1063km away in Gorizia. Meanwhile, the UCI Women’s World Tour is in Spain for the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas.

The May Tournament of Sumo Wrestling continues this week.

For netball fans, the Vitality Superleague sees Wasps Netball take on the Manchester Thunder.

As the MLB season continues, baseball fans are treated to a major series in the NL West between the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers, as well as the resurgent New York Yankees taking on the Chicago White Sox.

Alongside the PGA Championship, there is plenty of golf to enjoy as the LPGA Tour travels to Virginia for the Pure Silk Championship.

There is a premier AFL clash for Australian Rules fans as the Brisbane Lions take on Richmond.

For boxing fans, there is a must-watch title fight as José Ramírez and Josh Taylor clash for the undisputed unified light welterweight title.

There is plenty of motorsport to enjoy. With F1 travelling to Monaco, the Superbike World Championship begins its season at Aragón.

Track and field enthusiasts will be eagerly anticipating the first stop of the Diamond League season, as the premier athletics tour comes to Gateshead this week.

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

Fixture

Photos by Boston Bruins, Leicester City, Giro d'Italia, PGA Championship, Golden State Warriors, Stade Rochelais, FORMULA 1®

Written and information correct on 16th May at 9pm GMT

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