This Week in Sport: 18th – 24th January 2021

From midweek Premier League action to NFL Championship games, this week in sport promises to be truly special. The action gets underway at the world famous Gabba where Australia and India will clash on Day 4 of the 4th Test. The Premier League’s race for European places will heat up on Tuesday when Leicester City meet Chelsea at the King Power Stadium. NBA fans across the globe will be tuned in to Wednesday’s offering which pits the Philadelphia 76ers against the Boston Celtics. 

The Race to Dubai begins on the European Tour this week, with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship taking place across the weekend. England’s tour of Sri Lanka continues on Friday when the two sides play out Day 1 of the 2nd Test. A long-standing NHL rivalry will be renewed on Saturday night as the Philadelphia Flyers travel to take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. The week ends with the NFC Championship game in the NFL, set to be contested between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Monday 18th January 12:00AM GMT – Cricket: Australia v India 

Who will gain the upper hand on Day 4 of the 4th Test at the Gabba? The action from Down Under starts at 12:00AM GMT. 

After three extraordinary days of Test cricket, this match remains very much in the balance. Australia seemingly had the game in their hands when, after recording a first innings total of 369, India lost six wickets in relatively quick succession with just 186 runs posted in response. However, a special seventh-wicket stand by India pair Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar hauled the tourists back into contention. Inspired by the resilience of Thakur and Sundar, who faced 259 balls between them, India reduced the first-innings deficit to just 33 runs, teeing up a titanic 4th day of action on Monday. 

With Australia back at the crease, they will be desperate to get runs on the board and fast, as any result other than a home win would see India retain the Border–Gavaskar Trophy. However, the weather forecast is very much on the visitor’s side, with rain expected to heavily disrupt the final two days of play. Will India manage to cling on to a hard-earned draw, or can Australia’s first-rate batting order produce some Day 4 heroics to swing the odds in their favour? 

Tuesday 19th January 8:15PM GMT – Football: Leicester City v Chelsea 

Two teams firmly in the race for European football lock horns at the King Power Stadium – this Premier League showdown kicks off at 8:15PM GMT. 

As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the Premier League calendar, Leicester and Chelsea will return to action just three days after their last respective outings. At the weekend, Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester overcame Southampton to extend their unbeaten league run to five games. That win on Saturday night temporarily propelled the Foxes up to second overnight, as they restored a six-point buffer over Tuesday’s opponents. Since their fairy-tale title-winning season of 2015/16, Leicester have failed to finish in the four Champions League positions, but there are growing expectations in and around the King Power that the Foxes could be dining at Europe’s top table this time next year.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are no strangers to Europe’s elite club competition, and have a Round of 16 tie booked against Atletico Madrid next month to prove it. Before that, however, Frank Lampard will be focussed on his team’s Premier League fortunes, which have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. The Blues recorded their first post-Christmas win last time out against Fulham, a result which ended their three-game winless streak. Lampard will hope that derby win can be a turning point in Chelsea’s season, as they look to secure Champions League qualification for a third-straight season.

The last three league meetings between these two sides have ended all square – will the spoils be shared once more on Tuesday?   

Wednesday 20th January 12:00AM GMT (Thursday 21st) – Basketball: Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics 

Another instalment of an iconic NBA rivalry unfolds at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia as the Philadelphia 76ers host the Boston Celtics on Thursday 21st January 2021 at 12:00AM GMT.

After losing just four games there last season, the Philadelphia 76ers have already set about making the Wells Fargo Center a fortress once again. No franchise has won more games on home court than the 76ers, who have already claimed seven victories on their own patch this term. Led by the dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Pennsylvanian outfit have qualified for the playoffs in the last three campaigns, but have failed to progress past the Semifinals since their 2001 run to the NBA Finals. Whilst Ben Simmons leads his team in the assists and steals categories, Joel Embiid has also been effective at both ends of the floor, topping the points, blocks and rebounds columns on Philly’s stats sheet. With 25 PPG and 11.5 RPG, Embiid has averaged a double-double in the early season exchanges, and has unquestionably been one of the league’s standout performers thus far. 

Looking to become the first Eastern Conference team to come away from Philly with the W this season, the Boston Celtics will travel to Pennsylvania in a jubilant mood. With a record of 8-4, Brad Stevens’ team have seized the early-season initiative out East and currently occupy second spot in the Conference. Despite losing last time out, Boston have been in good form lately, constructing a six-game winning run, and overcoming Eastern contenders in the shape of Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. The Celtics will be desperate to add Philadelphia to that list of notable scalps, but their recent head-to-head record makes for grim reading for those of a Celtics persuasion. 

Last season, Boston won just one of the four regular season meetings with the 76ers, but they can lay down a marker with a win on Wednesday as the Celtics look to make a march to their seventh straight playoff campaign this season.

Thursday 21st January 4:00AM GMT – Golf: Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Day 1 

One of the European Tour’s flagship events gets underway on Thursday at the magnificent Abu Dhabi Golf Course. 

The world’s golfing elite will descend on Abu Dhabi this weekend to contest the first Rolex Series tournament of the year. Within the star-studded field set to be teeing it up in the Middle East this week are three of the world’s top ten ranked players, including world number four Rory McIlroy. Despite never winning this particular competition, the Northern Irishman has recorded four runner-up finishes and often finds himself in the mix come trophy handout day. In what will be his first appearance at this competition since 2018, can Rory finally break his duck this weekend?

Making his maiden appearance in Abu Dhabi this week is world number three Justin Thomas who very rarely competes on the European Tour. Thomas will travel to Abu Dhabi as the highest ranked player in the field, and will be among the favourites to take the top prize on Sunday afternoon. The former PGA Championship winner is in fine fettle, too, having registered three top ten finishes in his last four tournament appearances. 

One player who is well-accustomed to these particular surroundings is reigning champion Lee Westwood, who was victorious at last year’s edition to record his 25th win on Tour. That win was Westwood’s only success on the European Tour last year, but he did end 2020 on a positive note, finishing second in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai last month. Will the 47-year-old retain his crown in the UAE this week, or will we see a new name on the trophy? 

Friday 22nd January 4:30AM GMT – Cricket: Sri Lanka v England 

Who will seize the impetus on Day 1 of the 2nd Test? Tune in from 4:30AM GMT to find out. 

Unfortunately for the hosts, there were no signs of rustiness within the England ranks last week, as the visitors competed in the Test format for the first time in almost half a year. A first-innings stand of 228 runs from captain Joe Root set England on their way to a convincing 1st Test win to place the tourists into the driving seat ahead of Friday’s 2nd Test. Root’s double century was the first to be scored by an Englishman on Sri Lankan soil, as he became just the seventh Englishman to surpass 8,000 Test runs. The visitors will now be eyeing a 2-0 whitewash of their Sri Lankan counterparts which would represent the perfect preparation for their impending clash with India next month. 

Meanwhile, the 1st Test was not without positives for a Sri Lanka. Before Root steadied the ship, England were in danger of capitulating in the first innings, as Sri Lanka made light work of the visitor’s opening batsmen, sending Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley packing with just 13 runs scored between them. It was a similar story in England’s second stand at the crease. With England needing just 74 runs to claim victory, Sri Lanka’s bowling brigade forced an early-innings wobble to the tune of 14-3, as the hosts refused to roll over and accept defeat. There was some brave batting too in their second innings but they were never able to make up for their disastrous first innings performance. 

Will England finish the job in Galle, or can Sri Lanka restore parity in the final match of the series?

Saturday 23rd January 12:00AM GMT (Sunday 24th) – Ice Hockey: Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers 

Boston and Philadelphia will renew their rivalry in Saturday’s unmissable NHL showdown. 

Formerly dubbed the clash between the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ and ‘Broad Street Bullies’, these two teams share an intimate history which first arose in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals. That year, Philadelphia defeated Boston to lift their first Stanley Cup title, and the two sides have since gone on to meet five more times in the postseason, with the series results split three apiece. 

Though the rivalry between Boston and Philadelphia may not be as intense today, there is still plenty riding on Saturday’s meeting. The hosts have made an indifferent start to the new campaign, winning one and losing the other of their opening two ties against the New Jersey Devils. After winning more games than any other team last season, expectations are certainly high in Boston. However, for the early-season exchanges at least, they will be without last year’s top scorer David Pastrnak, who is currently side-lined after undergoing hip surgery in September. 

Meanwhile, Philadelphia have made the perfect start to their season, overcoming the Pittsburgh Penguins twice in their opening two fixtures. Having netted 11 times already, the Flyers have scored more goals than any other side through two games, and have certainly caught the attention of their Divisional rivals. Having been dumped out in the Second Round last season, Philadelphia fans will be desperate to see their team return to the NHL’s showpiece games, with the Flyers last contesting a Stanley Cup Final back in 2010. 

Sunday 24th January 8:05PM GMT – American Football: Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Playing for a place in the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle it out in the NFC Championship at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday 24th January 2021 at 8:05PM GMT.

It’s Championship weekend in the NFL, but which teams will book their ticket to Super Bowl LV?

After 19 weeks of gruelling competition, just four teams are left to battle it out for the chance to become world champions on 7th February. Before then, there is the small matter of Championship weekend to deal with as four becomes two. Whilst Kansas City and Buffalo battle it out at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC showdown, Aaron Rodgers will be looking to guide his Green Bay Packers back to the biggest show on Earth, as he welcomes Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to Lambeau Field. In his 16th season as a Packer, Rodgers has displayed the sort of form that pushed Green Bay to their most recent Super Bowl success in 2011. The MVP-elect enjoyed his most productive campaign in the regular season, throwing for 48 touchdowns in all, eight more than any other QB. The 37-year-old has carried that form into the playoffs, as he threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional Round clash with the LA Rams. Will anyone dare stop Rodgers on his march to a long-awaited second ring?

Up step Messrs Brady and Gronkowski. In the red and blue guise of New England, these two perennial talents combined to win three Super Bowl titles, and a fourth is very much on the mind now down in Florida. Whilst Brady’s favourite tight end has been a difference-maker this season, Gronkowski has been just one of the many receiving targets used by Bucs’ future Hall of Fame QB. In fact, in their win over the Saints last weekend, Brady found eight different receivers as he masterminded Tampa Bay’s first Divisional Round win since their Super Bowl winning season in 2002/03. 

It was a very one-sided affair when these two sides last met back in October, as Tampa Bay found the end zone four times in a 38-10 victory on home field, awarding Green Bay their first loss of the season. With Rodgers and Brady operating in different Conferences up to this season, these two global icons have never met in a playoff game, so sit back and witness greatness as two of the best to ever do it thrash it out for a ticket to Super Bowl Sunday!

Honourable mentions from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the Premier League, with two potential classics headlining this week’s schedule. Festivities begin in north London, where Arsenal and Newcastle will provide the entertainment on Monday Night Football. Title-chasing Manchester City will take the stage on Wednesday night, as they welcome fellow high-flyers Aston Villa to the Etihad. City’s Premier League ambitions will be put on hold at the weekend, as they prepare to take on League Two’s Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup Fourth Round. There will be plenty more Premier League representation in the latest crop of FA Cup fixtures, including Brighton and Hove Albion who will entertain Blackpool, and West Ham United who will welcome Doncaster Rovers to the London Stadium. There is one bit of business left to be resolved from the Third Round, as Southampton and Shrewsbury clash on Tuesday to play out their postponed meeting. Non-League Chorley will take on Premier League opposition in the shape of Wolverhampton Wanderers, whilst Chelsea take on Luton Town and Brentford face Leicester. However, the stand-out tie of the Fourth Round pits Manchester United against Liverpool, as the two bitter rivals meet in the FA Cup for the first time since 2012. 

European football fans will be treated to plenty of entertainment across the continent’s best leagues this week, starting with a Bundesliga showdown between two title-chasers in Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. It is a quick turnaround for these two sides who are both in action once more later in the week, with the former facing Wolfsburg on Saturday whilst Borussia Dortmund travel to face Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday. We will also see RB Leipzig in action this week, as they play host to 1. FC Union Berlin on Wednesday. La Liga will bring us two more standout matchups this week which will see Villarreal entertain Granada and Sevilla face Cadiz. All of Serie A’s heavy-hitters are in action across the weekend, starting with AC Milan who will test their mettle against free-scoring Atalanta. Two more ties from Italy’s top tier headline Sunday’s bill, as Verona do battle with Napoli before Lazio thrash it out with Sassuolo. 

It is a busy weekend for golf, with the PGA Tour hosting The American Express at La Quinta from Thursday, whilst the LPGA Tour takes us to Lake Buena Vista, where the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions will play out across the weekend.

Two competitive ODI teams will lock horns on Wednesday, as Bangladesh and West Indies contest the 1st ODI in Dhaka before meeting for the 2nd ODI on Friday. Another intriguing international ODI fixture is set to play out the following day featuring Afghanistan and Ireland who will meet at Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Keep up to date with England’s tour of Sri Lanka, as they thrash out the 2nd Test this week. As we enter the business end of the Big Bash League season, there is a typically hectic week of action to look forward to. The first offering concerns the Adelaide Strikers’ clash with the Brisbane Heat, before attentions turn to Sydney where the Sixers will host local rivals, the Thunder, in a top-of-the-table showdown. The in-form Perth Scorchers return to action on Saturday when they will face off with the Melbourne Stars at the MCG, whilst the Thunder and the Adelaide Strikers lock horns at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday. 

Rugby Union fans will be looking forward to Currie Cup action at the weekend, with Bulls versus Lions and Western Province versus Sharks playing out on Saturday.

The heavyweight clashes continue to come thick and fast in the NBA (pending any further COVID postponements), with reigning champions, the LA Lakers, getting us underway on Monday with a blockbuster clash versus the Golden State Warriors. Two teams tussling for top spot in the East lock horns on Monday as the Brooklyn Nets meet the Milwaukee Bucks. The latter return to action on Thursday when they will take on LeBron James and the Lakers. We will be treated to another instalment of the 76ers versus the Celtics on Friday night, whilst the Phoenix Suns meet the Denver Nuggets in a Western Conference showdown. 

Make sure you keep up to date with all the action from Sumo Wrestling’s January Tournament as the event enters its final week.

The eyes of the Sailing world will be diverted to the coasts of New Zealand this week as the Prada Cup races continue to unfold all week long. 

UFC 257 will unfold on Sunday – Conor McGregor’s tête-à-tête with Dustin Poirier tops the bill on Fight Island. 

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

Fixture

Photos by Cricket Australia, Leicester City, Boston Celtics, Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, England Cricket, Boston Bruins, Green Bay Packers

Written and information correct on 17th January at 9pm GMT

See what else is happening in the world of sport

Fixture Calendar