This Week in Sport: 1st – 7th March 2021

Another action-packed week in the sporting world lies in wait, but which fixture are you most excited for? Cure the Monday blues with a mouth-watering NHL offering as the Edmonton Oilers welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Rogers Place. Manchester City will look to make it 15 Premier League wins in a row as they welcome Wolves to the Etihad on Tuesday. Two of the NBA’s form teams meet in Philly on Wednesday as the Philadelphia 76ers host the Utah Jazz in a cross-Conference classic.

Can England salvage a draw from their Test series with India? The 4th and final Test begins on Thursday morning in Ahmedabad. The highly anticipated European Athletics Indoor Championships get underway on Friday, with three days’ worth of action unfolding across the weekend in Torun. UFC 259 is headlined by the Light Heavyweight title bout between Jan Błachowicz and Israel Adesanya in Las Vegas. It’s derby day in the Premier League on Sunday as Manchester City take on Manchester United!

Monday 1st March 3:00AM GMT (Tuesday 2nd) – Ice Hockey: Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s a battle at the top of the NHL’s North Division as the Edmonton Oilers host the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second game in a three-game series at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday 2nd March 2021 at 3:00AM GMT.

The Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are entangled in a thrilling battle for top spot in the North Division, with the latter currently leading the way. After registering back-to-back wins last week, Toronto hold a six point lead over second-placed Edmonton, but can the Oilers reduce the arrears in Monday’s pivotal matchup? 

Last time out, Edmonton saw their five-game winning streak come crashing to an end as Toronto ran out 4-0 winners at Rogers Place. Worryingly, Saturday’s defeat to the Maple Leafs saw Edmonton fail to find the net for the first time this season, with their league-leading offence quelled by a dominant Toronto rearguard. That loss aside, few teams have been in better form of late than the Edmonton Oilers who, prior to Saturday, had won eight of their last nine and 11 of their last 13 outings in the league. That impressive run was conducted in no small part by the often-irrepressible duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have both featured in every single game thus far. With 24 goals and 50 assists between them in just 23 Edmonton fixtures this term, McDavid and Draisaitl’s influence has been intrinsic to Oilers’ success so far. However, with Monday’s clash the second of a three-game home set against the Maple Leafs, can the Oilers bounce back to keep touch with the North’s leaders?

Coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season, Toronto will be full of confidence ahead of their return to Rogers Place on Monday night. Not only were the Maple Leafs unrelenting at the offensive end, they effectively suppressed the danger men of Edmonton, in particular Connor McDavid, who mustered just one shot on target on Saturday night. Whilst Toronto will be expecting a response from their North rivals on Monday, the visitors will hope to seize the opportunity to move eight points clear of the chasing pack as they look to add to their league-leading record of 16 wins this term. 

Tuesday 2nd March 8:00PM GMT – Football: Manchester City v Wolves

A busy midweek Premier League bill is topped by Wolves’ trip to the Etihad – kick-off in Manchester comes at 8:00PM GMT. 

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will look to make it 15 league wins in a row when Nuno Espirito Santo leads his Wolverhampton side to the north west on Tuesday night. 

The Citizens tightened their stranglehold over England’s top tier on Saturday afternoon as they edged past a determined West Ham side to record their 20th win in a row in all competitions. Whilst much has been said of City’s irresistible offensive set up, which has yielded 52 goals in the league for Guardiola, this unrelenting run of form has its foundations firmly in an impervious defence. Led most effectively by centre-back pairing Ruben Dias and John Stones, City’s back line has been by far the best in the country, having conceded just over 0.6 goals per game in the Premier League. Since their last loss back in November, City haven’t conceded more than one goal in a game, keeping 19 clean sheets in all competitions in the 27 subsequent games. Furthermore, when Dias and Stones start appearing on the scoresheet, as they did in the win over West Ham, it really does spell danger for the rest of the league, as City close in on a fifth Premier League title. 

Whilst assignments hardly come much tougher than a trip to the Etihad just now, Espirito Santo has gradually been steadying the ship in Wolverhampton, with his side on a healthy five-game unbeaten streak of their own. Wolves endured a disastrous start to 2021, failing to win a single Premier League game in January. However, February yielded far greater success for the Portuguese’s side, who won three and drew two of their five league outings last month. What’s more, not only have Wolves typically performed well against the traditional ‘Big Six’ of late, they have also got the better of City in two of the last three Premier League meetings, completing a league double over them last term. 

Wednesday 3rd March 00:00AM GMT (Thursday 4th) – Basketball: Philadelphia 76ers v Utah Jazz

In the NBA, it’s the best in the East hosting the best in the West as the Philadelphia 76ers take on the Utah Jazz at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday 4th March 2021 at 12:00AM GMT.

Whilst it is far too early to declare this matchup a dress rehearsal to this year’s NBA Finals, there would be little surprise should these two teams feature heavily in the postseason this term. Despite losing ground atop the Eastern standings after the weekend’s surprise loss to Cleveland, Philadelphia remain in pole position as they look to make a push for a first-place finish in the East for the first time since the 2000/01 season. That loss would have come as a particular surprise to 76ers fans who have become accustomed to seeing their team win at Wells Fargo, with Philly winning 14 of their 17 outings on home court this term. One of the few signs of encouragement from Saturday’s exploits was the performance of Joel Embiid, who recorded yet another double-double, going for 42 points and 13 rebounds. With Embiid having missed last month’s 134-123 loss to the Jazz through injury, Philly will be buoyed by his return as they prepare for a critical showdown with the best in the West. 

In the month of February, Utah picked up 12 wins from 14 outings to extend their healthy lead atop the Western Conference. No team across the country has recorded more wins than Utah this term, who head into March with 27 to their name. However, if there are any concerns within the Utah camp it could be their form on the road, with each of their last five losses coming outside Salt Lake City, losing two of their last three road games to boot. Furthermore, only Utah themselves can boast a more dominant home record than that of Philadelphia, with Wells Fargo one of the toughest arenas to play basketball as an away team anywhere in the country. Utah have experienced this first-hand on recent trips to Philly where they have lost three in a row, last winning at Wells Fargo back in 2016. 

Thursday 4th March 4:00AM GMT – Cricket: India v England (4th Test, Day 1) 

The fourth and final Test between India and England begins in Ahmedabad on Thursday 4th March 2021 at 4:00AM GMT.

England’s trip to India was dubbed one of the most eagerly anticipated Test match series of the year before a ball was bowled, and these two great sporting nations certainly haven’t disappointed. Heading into this week’s final Test, India retain a 2-1 series lead, but will be desperate to finish the job in style to record consecutives Test series wins on home turf over the English, with the last coming back in 2018. 

In what was a most unique 3rd Test, batting took a back seat as some of the world’s best bowlers flexed their muscles on the wicket of Ahmedabad, none more so than the masterful Axar Patel, who certainly enjoyed a Test to remember. In what was only his second Test outing in Indian whites, Patel etched his name into the record books by recording the highest ever wicket haul in a day/night Test match with 11. After posting a return of 6-38 in England’s first innings, Patel set out his stool early on in the second too, as he demolished England’s top order by taking the wickets of England’s first four batsmen, including that of captain Joe Root. Patel has now recorded three straight five-wicket hauls against England – will he be the man to get them over the line in the 4th Test? 

Meanwhile, as England’s game plan of employing more pace in place of a batsman backfired, Joe Root will be left to ruminate about just how his side can repeat the 1st Test heroics to come away from the series with a share of the spoils. In what was the shortest Test match since 1935, England posted a measly run total of 193 in their two stints at the crease, as a combination of some extraordinary spin bowling and a below par pitch led to the tourist’s capitulation. A surprise five-wicket haul from Root kept England in contention, but only briefly, as his side succumbed once again to this great Indian side. Can the visitors pull off a minor miracle to rescue a draw from this most captivating Test series? 

Friday 5th March 9:00AM GMT – Athletics: European Athletics Indoor Championships Day 1

The European Indoor Athletics Championships begin at Arena Toruń in Toruń, Poland on Friday 5th March at 9:00AM GMT.

For the first time since 1975, Poland will play host to the prestigious European Athletics Indoor Championships with some of the planet’s leading sportspeople congregating at Arena Torun for a weekend of electrifying action. There will be a select few qualifying and preliminary events taking place on Thursday, but the competition begins in earnest on Friday. 733 athletes will be representing 47 countries on Polish soil this week, but what you can you expect to see on Day 1 of this year’s edition? 

There are two action-packed sessions set to play out on Friday, with plenty of both track and field events to watch out for. Whilst the morning’s schedule features some of the most compelling events, including the qualifiers in the Men’s Shot Put and the first round of the Women’s 400m, all eyes will be on Friday’s evening session, as the first medals of the weekend are awarded. In all, six medal events are set to take place across a thrilling evening of Athletics, including the Men’s 1,500m, listed to commence just after 8:30PM GMT. Within the field contesting this particular event will be last year’s winner and home-crowd favourite Marcin Lewandowski, who will looking to notch a fourth successive European indoor title. The Pole also has the opportunity to become the first competitor to win European indoor titles in the 800m, 1500m and 3000m in championship history this weekend – you won’t want to miss a minute!

It is the hosts who have enjoyed most success at this competition in recent editions, with Poland topping the medal table in both 2017 and 2019, but will they reign supreme once more?

Saturday 6th March 3:00AM GMT – Mixed Martial Arts: Jan Błachowicz v Israel Adesanya

A title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Israel Adensanya headlines UFC 259 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Sunday 7th March 2021 at 3:00AM GMT.

With not one, not two, but three title fights featuring on Saturday’s card, UFC 259 promises to be one of this year’s most unmissable MMA events. The pick of the fights features Jan Błachowicz, who will be putting his Light Heavyweight title on the line in his main event bout with the undefeated Israel Adesanya. 

Saturday’s outing will be Błachowicz’s maiden title defence as the newly-crowned Light Heavyweight champ looks to cement his UFC legacy. The 38-year-old heads to Vegas with a record of 27 wins and 8 losses, with just one of those defeats coming in his last nine appearances in the octagon. In his last outing back in September, Błachowicz registered his fourth straight win as he etched his name into UFC history by claiming the vacant Light Heavyweight belt in what was arguably the best display of his career, culminating in the knockout of Dominick Reyes. Błachowicz can boast the highest takedown accuracy of all the active light heavyweights, whilst Adesanya statistically possesses the second most effective takedown defence in middleweight history, but who’s skillset will prove most effective on Saturday night?

For Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, his rise to potential super stardom has been done in double quick time, with the Nigerian-born fighter making his octagon debut just three years ago in 2018. ‘The Last Stylebender’ has a pristine MMA record, winning 20 bouts, 15 of those by knockout, and has quickly become one of the most popular figures on the circuit. Having dominated in the Middleweight division, Adesanya will be moving up a division to take on the Light Heavyweight champ. However, the tale of the tape suggests the physical advantages between the two actually lean in Adesanya’s favour, who is two inches taller and can boast a two-inch reach advantage over his Polish counterpart. This, along with his enigmatic and slick style, makes Adesanya the firm favourite going into the bout, can he deliver in Vegas to become the latest two-division champ?

Sunday 7th March 4:30PM GMT – Football: Manchester City v Manchester United 

Sunday is derby day as the 48th Premier League edition of the Manchester Derby plays out from 4:30PM GMT at the Etihad.

United will make the short 4-mile trip across Manchester on Sunday afternoon as they prepare for a crucial derby date at Etihad Stadium, where the league’s top two will lock horns. In recent months, Manchester United have emerged as City’s closest competitors in this year’s title race, but the Red Devils still remain 12 points off the pace set by their noisy neighbours heading into March. Their position in the upper echelons of England’s top tier has been founded in an impeccable away record which has seen United go 13 games without loss on the road this term, making them the only team in the English Football League yet to lose away from home. Sunday’s meeting could see City build up a near-unassailable lead of 15 points, but can Solskjaer’s men delay the procession?

Whilst Guardiola has been seemingly having it all his own way in the blue half of Manchester just now, the same cannot be said when it comes to meeting with the Red Devils. Since making the switch to English football in 2016, Guardiola has a record of six wins, five losses and two draws against their local rivals – no team in world football has beaten a Guardiola side more times than Manchester United. In fact, City remain winless from the last three Manchester derbies in the Premier League. That being said, City haven’t dropped a single point since late November, but will United be the team to put an end to the Sky Blues’ record-breaking run? 

Other sporting highlights from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the football as Europe’s top leagues continue to produce plenty of unmissable fixtures. The week’s action begins in the Spanish capital where Real Madrid will be eyeing a fifth straight La Liga win as Real Sociedad come to town. Barcelona are in Copa Del Rey action on Wednesday night when they will look to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit against Sevilla to reach next month’s Final. The other Semi-final will see Levante take on Athletic Bilbao, with the score all square after the first leg. The title race will be under the microscope in Madrid on Sunday afternoon, as Real return to action to take on local rivals Atletico at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Borussia Dortmund’s trip to Bayern Munich tops the bill in Bundesliga this weekend. After losing more ground in the title race last weekend, Juventus will be back in Serie A action on Saturday when they will take on Lazio. In a week which will see 16 Premier League fixtures play out, it all gets underway at Goodison where Everton will entertain Southampton in an unmissable Monday night offering. Attentions turn to the capital on Wednesday night as Crystal Palace prepare to host Manchester United at Selhurst Park. Two more Premier League stalwarts will cross swords the following evening as Liverpool do battle with Chelsea. The latest edition of the Black Country derby will play out on Saturday as Wolves travel to face Aston Villa at Villa Park. The derbies continue to come thick and fast in England’s top tier this weekend, with Tottenham set to take on Crystal Palace in Sunday’s late kick-off. 

In the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers will be out to defend their home court on Monday night as Eastern rivals, the Indiana Pacers come to town. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs will welcome the Brooklyn Nets to AT&T Center in another unmissable matchup. Two teams tussling for position in the Western playoff spots lock horns on Tuesday night as the LA Lakers meet the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center. Another fixture with potential playoff ramifications will play out the following evening as the Portland Trail Blazers face off with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ road trip then takes them to Phoenix where they will meet the Suns on Thursday night. In a change to the regularly scheduled programming, we venture to Atlanta at the weekend where the All-Star Game will take centre stage. 

The ATP World Tour takes us to Rotterdam this week where Day 1 of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament will play out on Monday ahead of a week’s worth of action. Meanwhile on the WTA World Tour, the Qatar Total Open gets underway in Doha on the same day, with the week’s play leading up to Saturday’s Final.

Dubbed the ‘FA Cup of darts’, the PDC Tour’s UK Open will get underway in Minehead on Friday as 160 players test their mettle in one of the sport’s grandest competitions.

There is a festival of international T20 cricket set to play out this week – a colossal fixture in the Women’s game pits New Zealand against England in the 1st T20I on Wednesday. The two sides will meet twice more this week in the 2nd and 3rd T20Is set to play out on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s male representation are also in T20 action on Wednesday as they entertain Australia in the 3rd T20I ahead of the 4th and 5th meetings also scheduled for Friday and Sunday. The final offering pits West Indies against Sri Lanka – the sides will play out a three-game T20 series between Wednesday and Sunday. The 4th Test match between India and England takes across the weekend.

Another unmissable LPGA event will unfold in Florida across the weekend in the shape of the Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala. Meanwhile, the PGA Tour’s finest will concurrently be plying their trade in the Sunshine State, as the Arnold Palmer Invitational is contested at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. 

Boxing fans will be treated to a unification bout on Friday night as two unbeaten fighters in the shape of Claressa Shields and Marie-Eve Dicaire contest the WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO super welterweight titles.     

Rugby Union fans continue to have their diaries filled with elite action from across the globe – the Premiership’s schedule is headlined by two unmissable clashes as Sale Sharks meet Newcastle on Friday and Harlequins face Northampton Saints on Sunday. There are two more standout Pro14 Rugby fixtures which pit Munster Rugby against Connacht Rugby and Ulster Rugby against Leinster Rugby. Meanwhile, this week’s Super Rugby Aotearoa offering concerns the Chiefs’ meeting with the Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday, before the Crusaders take on the Hurricanes on Sunday. 

It’s another busy week across North America as this NHL season rumbles on. We begin north of the border in Edmonton where the Oilers and Maple Leafs will conclude their three-game mini-series at Rogers Place. Two more titanic fixtures are also scheduled for Wednesday, as the Boston Bruins face the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings entertain the Arizona Coyotes. There is another triple header of NHL action on Friday as the Kings meet the St. Louis Blues, the Boston Bruins host the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks entertain the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Kings and the Blues will share the ice once more at the weekend with two more pivotal points on offer at the Staples Center. The week’s action concludes in the Windy City where the Blackhawks will take on the Lightning at the United Center. 

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

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Photos by Edmonton Oilers, Wolves, Utah Jazz, Team India, Elliot Levi Giles, UFC, Manchester City

Written and information correct on 28th February at 9pm GMT

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