This Week in Sport: 19th – 25th April 2021
As the green shoots of recovery are seen across the world, the sporting schedule is in full bloom and you will not want to miss a minute of this week’s offering. The pick of the bunch from this week’s Premier League crop sees Leeds United welcome Champions League-chasing Liverpool to Elland Road. An intriguing title race is blossoming in the Indian Premier League – reigning champs Mumbai Indians travel to take on Delhi Capitals at MA Chidambaram Stadium. This week’s sporting journey then whisks us to the fortress that is the Wells Fargo Center, where the Philadelphia 76ers will meet the Phoenix Suns in a classic NBA matchup. The sporting spectacle that is Judgement Night at the Darts Premier League will play out on Thursday when two players will exit the competition.
Meanwhile, table-topping Bristol Bears are in action on Friday night as they play host to second-placed Exeter Chiefs in a pivotal Premiership showdown. The showpiece fight at UFC 261 sees Kamaru Usman go toe-to-toe with Jorge Masvidal in an eagerly-anticipated welterweight title rematch. This week in sport ends in front of 8,000 people at the home of football, as the Carabao Cup Final is contested between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Monday 19th April 7:00PM GMT – Football: Leeds United v Liverpool
Two teams steeped in British football history go head-to-head in a titanic Premier League matchup – kick-off at Elland Road is at 7:00PM GMT.
With their Premier League status all but confirmed for another season, Leeds will look to put the cherry on top of a successful campaign with a final flourish over one of the league’s big hitters. It was in the reverse fixture in which Premier League fans got their first memorable taste of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds as a top-flight outfit, as they travelled to Anfield on opening day just over six months ago. The two sides treated fans to a seven-goal thriller in which Leeds thrice pegged Liverpool back, but ultimately succumbed to a Mo Salah hat-trick. The mantra on display that day of throwing caution to the wind has been a feature of Leeds’ play throughout the campaign, having proved they won’t change their stripes under any circumstances, even against the Premier League champions. Having already recorded famous victories over two of the league’s top four this term, can Bielsa’s men notch one more notable scalp?
Whilst the comfort of mid-table will satisfy the absent Elland Road faithful, the defending champions would have had far loftier aspirations than their current position of sixth. After losing six-straight home games earlier in the year, Liverpool fans would have started preparing for a year away from the Champions League, after winning Europe’s elite club competition no longer than two years ago. However, a recent upturn in form which has seen the Reds win three-straight in the league for the first time since the opening weeks of the campaign has reignited their Champions League dreams, and they can move into the coveted top four spots with a win on Monday night. Whilst their title defence ended with a whimper long ago, can Jurgen Klopp secure a top four berth to salvage some merit from this disastrous campaign?
Tuesday 20th April 2:00PM GMT – Cricket: Delhi Capitals v Mumbai Indians
The latest IPL instalment sees two of the league’s ever-presents cross swords at MA Chidambaram Stadium – play begins at 2:00PM GMT.
With almost 900 miles separating these two stalwarts of the IPL, you wouldn’t presume there is any sort of rivalry between the Capitals and Indians. However, with Delhi and Mumbai being the two biggest cities in the country, there is always plenty of bragging rights on the line when these two lock horns in the IPL. However, with Mumbai now able to boast five IPL titles, Delhi have been left to play catchup as they remain one of the three ever-presents yet to go all the way. Their best opportunity came only last year, with their run to the Final representing their best ever return from an IPL season. However, their hopes of a maiden title were dashed by the very same Mumbai Indians side they are facing this week, but can the Capitals exact revenge over their distant rivals?
In what was an historic season for Delhi last term, Mumbai remained the only team the Capitals failed to overcome, with the Indians winning all four meetings between the sides last season, including the one that mattered most in the Final. With their fourth title win back in 2019, Mumbai moved clear as the most successful franchise in IPL history. Having since added a fifth for good measure, the Indians are now gunning for a fourth title in the last five seasons as they look to extend their reign of dominance in cricket’s most exciting league. Many commentators will consider these two sides as two of the most likely finalists come May, but who will get the upper hand in the early knockings of the campaign?
Wednesday 21st April 11:00PM GMT – Basketball: Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns
It’s East versus West in Wednesday’s unmissable NBA showcase – tip-off at Wells Fargo Center comes at 11:00PM GMT.
Two of this season’s standout teams go toe-to-toe in Philly on Wednesday in a game that will have ramifications at the summits of both Conferences. The 76ers continue to lead the way after 56 games this term, but their position at the top of the tree remains precarious, with Brooklyn sitting just 1.0 game behind. However, Philadelphia reaffirmed their table-topping credentials last week as they overcame the Nets in a memorable 123-117 triumph. That win was thanks in no small part to the contributions of one Joel Embiid, who continues to throw his hat in the ring for this season’s MVP conversation. The centre recorded a double-double, netting 39 points in just 33 minutes on the court, whilst adding 13 rebounds to boot.
Slowly down Embiid will be high on the agenda for Monty Williams and his Phoenix Suns, who are flying high themselves in an unfamiliar-looking Western Conference. Phoenix last finished in the top two all the way back in the 2006/07 season, but resetting that particular statistic is now a realistic aim for the Arizona-based outfit, particularly after their impressive recent run of form which has seen the Suns win 11 of their last 13 outings. Not only have Phoenix been passing the ball effectively this term, recording the second-best assist average in the league, they have also been particularly efficient from the field, and can currently boast the second-best field goal percentage with just under 49%.
Two titans of the NBA cross swords in a mid-week matchup, but who will come out on top?
Thursday 22nd April 6:00PM GMT – Darts: Premier League Judgement Night
It’s the end of the road for two Premier League stars, but which players will be packing their bags? Tune in from 6:00PM GMT to find out.
In this year’s condensed edition, Judgement Night comes just over three weeks after opening night, but the pressure will still be as intense as ever as the ten competitors battle for their Premier League lives. Whilst there are plenty of darts still to be thrown this week before Thursday’s pivotal showdown, only one player finds himself in immediate danger of elimination, with defending champion Glen Durrant sitting rock bottom with 0 points from five games. With a leg difference of -24, even three wins in the week might not be enough to save Durrant’s skin, who has spoken at great lengths about his recent struggles at the oche.
The other player currently in the danger zone is Grand Slam Champion Jose De Sousa, who has just one win to his name after the first week’s play. However, such is the competitive nature of this year’s edition, only three points separate De Sousa in ninth and Jonny Clayton in first, so you can expect plenty of movement yet before the final dart is thrown in anger on Thursday.
Five games are scheduled to play out on Thursday, with the pick of the ties seeing Jonny Clayton take the stage alongside world number two Michael van Gerwen, in what could prove to be a pivotal matchup in the race for the playoff places. Since really kickstarting his career at last year’s World Cup, Clayton has since unquestionably been one of the Tour’s form players, and even looks likely to make a push for the Premier League as he seeks to add to his Masters title this year.
Friday 23rd April 6:45PM GMT – Rugby Union: Bristol Bears v Exeter Chiefs
Five more pivotal Premiership points are on offer as the top two meet at Ashton Gate – kick-off is at 6:45PM GMT.
Bristol Bears continue to set the pace in the highly competitive Premiership standings, but Exeter will be gifted the opportunity to reduce the arrears to just seven points should they complete a five-point haul on Friday. Bristol remain one of the country’s form teams just now, going into Friday’s matchup on the back of an eight-game unbeaten stretch. Having only lost two games all season, the Bears currently sit 12 points clear at the Premiership summit, as they close in on a momentous maiden title win. A seventh successive league win on Friday could leave Bristol with one foot in the playoffs and a home semi-final, with the opportunity to install a 17-point gap over their nearest rivals with just five games left to contest.
After making such an impressive start to the campaign, which saw Exeter win each of their first five league outings this term, their season is now in danger of ending with a whimper, as recent form has seen them lose ground on the league leaders. However, the Chiefs did keep their hopes of a successful title defence alive last weekend as they returned to winning ways with a convincing win over Wasps. After being dumped out of the Champions Cup a fortnight ago in devastating fashion, Exeter will now pin all their hopes of a successful campaign on their ability to retain the Premiership title, making Friday’s showdown one of the most important games in this year’s calendar. Don’t miss a minute!
Saturday 24th April 2.00AM GMT (Sunday 25th) – Mixed Martial Arts: UFC 261 - Kamaru Usman v Jorge Masvidal
Old rivalries are renewed at UFC 261 as Usman and Masvidal contest the welterweight title in a long-awaited rematch at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
After last July’s epic initial encounter between Usman and Masvidal, the two great fighters are set to do it all over again, with the coveted welterweight title on the line once more. In his only outing since his successful title defence against Masvidal, Usman overcame a tricky opponent in the shape of Gilbert Burns back in February, and is now looking to defend his title for the fourth time. Whilst Usman was thoroughly convincing in the initial meeting with Masvidal last year, many commentators would place an asterisk next to the win, due to the circumstances that preceded the fight. Not least, Jorge Masvidal only accepted the fight with six days’ notice, before having to shred almost 20 pounds to make weight. As a result, whilst Usman dominated in the unanimous win, Masvidal believes the fact he took the Nigerian the distance bodes well for his chances in the rematch, for which he has been granted more time to perfect his game plan.
That being said, Masvidal remains a heavy underdog to dethrone Usman in what could be the 36-year-old’s last chance at achieving welterweight glory. Having not stepped foot in the octagon since last year’s title fight, there could be fears of ring rust for the American who heads into Saturday’s showdown with a professional record of 35-14. Will Usman finally silence the critics, or can 'Gamebred' reign supreme to spring one of the biggest shocks of the year?
Sunday 25th April 3:30PM GMT – Football: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur
It’s trophy hand-out day in this year’s Carabao Cup, but which side will be taking home the spoils? Find out from 3:30PM GMT.
As ever when it comes to Cup Final Day, there are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow, and that is certainly the case when it comes to this year’s Carabao Cup showpiece. For City, their hopes of an historic quadruple winning season were dashed last weekend, when Chelsea dumped the Sky Blues out of the FA Cup at the Semi-final stage. However, with their Champions League progression secured, and the Premier League title all but won, Pep Guardiola will still be harbouring hopes of a hefty trophy haul this term, with his side still fighting on three fronts. Creating history is still very much on the cards for the Citizens this year, as they look to protect their incredible unbeaten run in this very competition, having last been eliminated from the Carabao Cup all the way back in October 2016. City are now looking to become the first team since Liverpool in the 1980s to win four straight League Cups, but will Jose Mourinho snatch another trophy from Pep’s grasp?
Being the last man to guide a team to victory over City in this competition, Mourinho has previous with Guardiola when it comes to meeting in the Carabao Cup. Furthermore, few managers have love affairs with particular competitions quite like the Portuguese does with the League Cup, having taken home this trophy on four previous occasions – his highest haul in a single competition. Whilst Mourinho has enjoyed success wherever he has been, there has been very little for Tottenham fans to celebrate of late, having seen their team win just one of their last six outings in all competitions. Whilst the Lilywhites’ hopes of Champions League qualifications have been left in tatters, a win on Sunday could represent a successful season for the north Londoners, who haven’t won a major competition since lifting this trophy back in 2008.
Other sporting highlights from around the globe
Honourable mentions around the globe go to the NHL where several blockbuster matchups headline a bumper week of action on the ice. Proceedings begin in Florida on Monday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning will play host to the Carolina Hurricanes, before the two sides do it all over again the following day. The Hurricanes return to the ice on Thursday and Saturday, this time to do battle with the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Two more ties feature on both Thursday and Saturday’s busy bills, as the Winnipeg Jets face off with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders entertain the Washington Capitals.
We are right across all the action from the MLB this week which begins with a Monday offering as the Philadelphia Phillies kick off their series with the San Francisco Giants. Two more series get underway on Monday as the San Diego Padres meet the Milwaukee Brewers whilst the Seattle Mariners face the Los Angeles Dodgers, with both series’ unfolding throughout the week. Another instalment of MLB action gets underway on Thursday as the Boston Red Sox lock horns with the Seattle Mariners – the two sides will meet three times in all this week.
As we edge ever-closer to the NBA playoffs, the blockbuster fixtures continue to come thick and fast. There is a trifecta of Monday action to digest, as the Denver Nuggets face the Memphis Grizzlies, the LA Lakers meet the Utah Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks host the Suns. Wednesday’s offering pits two Eastern giants against one another as the New York Knicks share the court with the Atlanta Hawks. Two more teams tussling for position in the Eastern playoff spots meet on Thursday and Saturday as the Bucks host the 76ers, whilst the Boston Celtics and the Suns do battle in a cross-Conference affair. The Dallas Mavericks will continue their pursuit of a second-straight playoff berth as they welcome the LA Lakers to the American Airlines Center on Thursday and Saturday. Friday brings us another Eastern Conference grudge match as the Brooklyn Nets welcome the Celtics to Barclays Center. We end the week with an unmissable double header which will see the Nets face the Suns and the Hawks entertain the Bucks.
This week’s football frenzy begins on Tuesday with a Bundesliga showcase featuring Bayern Munich and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. More action from Germany’s top tier comes on Saturday as VfL Wolfsburg clash with Borussia Dortmund whilst Leverkusen return home to take on Eintracht Frankfurt. There is plenty more on offer from the NWSL this week, starting with Tuesday’s offering which will see NJ/NY Gotham FC face North Carolina Courage, whilst Portland Thorns FC entertain OL Reign on Wednesday. Manchester City’s quest for a fifth Premier League title continues on Wednesday as they take on Aston Villa at Villa Park. Everton are in Friday action for the second week running, this time they travel to north London for a meeting with Arsenal. There is another clash in the capital on Saturday with West Ham United playing host to London rivals Chelsea. Old rivalries will be renewed on Sunday when Leeds United welcome Manchester United to Elland Road. There is an unmissable double helping of Serie A action on Thursday which will see Roma entertain Atalanta before Napoli face off with Lazio. We’ve reached the Semi-final stage of the Women’s Champions League, with PSG facing Barcelona initially on Friday before Bayern Munich meet Chelsea on Sunday. A heavyweight clash in the shape of Real Madrid versus Real Betis headlines Saturday’s La Liga schedule. Meanwhile title rivals Barcelona are in action the following day when they will travel to face Villarreal. The standout fixture from this week’s MLS action sees Los Angeles Football Club do battle with Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday.
There will be three more nights of Premier League action on the PDC Tour this week before the crucial Judgement Night on Thursday. After a busy week of Premier League play, the players will turn their attentions to the Super Series 3 which takes place on Saturday and sunday and continues into next week.
Snooker’s showpiece event continues this week as the World Championship plays out at the Crucible Theatre.
The ATP World Tour takes us to the shores of Barcelona this week where the Barcelona Open will unfold throughout the week. Meanwhile, the WTA World Tour rolls round to Istanbul from Monday where the Tennis Championship Istanbul will also be contested throughout the week.
Your weekly dose of international cricket starts on Wednesday when Sri Lanka will welcome Bangladesh to Pallekele where the two sides will contest the 1st Test. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe meet Pakistan on the same day as they thrash out the 1st T20I in Harare. The County Championship continues from Thursday, when the match between Hampshire and Gloucestershire will get underway. The electrifying IPL throws up another unmissable contest on Friday in the shape of Punjab Kings versus Mumbai Indians.
There is plenty more action from both the UCI World Tour and UCI Women’s World Tour this week, starting with the La Flèche Wallonne which plays out on Wednesday, before attention turns to the Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
Golf fans will be treated to three unmissable competitions this weekend, starting with the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The European Tour takes us to the Canary Islands this weekend where the Gran Canaria Open will play out from Thursday. Finally, the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open will be contested on the LPGA Tour.
The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday with Wasps and Loughborough Lightning providing the entertainment.
This week’s Rugby League schedule begins with a Thursday clash between Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers in a Super League showdown. Meanwhile, Roosters and Dragons will take centre stage in the NRL proceedings this weekend as the two sides meet at the SCG on Sunday.
The eagerly-anticipated Rainbow Cup gets underway this week, with Stormers facing Sharks and Ulster entertaining Connacht in a Friday double header. Two more fixtures from the same competition headline Saturday’s action as Bulls face Lions and Leinster meet Munster. This weekend’s Super Rugby Aotearoa offering sees Crusaders entertain Blues on Saturday. It’s Finals Day at the Women’s Six Nations on Saturday, with England’s clash with France the pick of the ties. There is another heavyweight Major League Rugby clash in the States on Sunday which will see Rugby United New York do battle with Toronto Arrows. Sunday provides yet another pivotal Premiership matchup as Leicester Tigers lock horns with Northampton Saints.
Fans are gripped by the goings on in the AFL and another unmissable fixture tops the bill this weekend as Melbourne face off with Richmond.
The Formula E season continues with two rounds of the Valencia E-Prix which plays out at the weekend.
Sail GP’s Bermuda race will be contested on Saturday and Sunday.
A world-class week of sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!
Photos by Liverpool Football Club, Delhi Capitals, Phoenix Suns, Professional Darts Corporation, Exeter Chiefs, KAMARU USMAN, Manchester City
Written and information correct on 18th April at 9pm GMT