This Week in Sport: 21st – 27th December 2020

All of your Christmas wishes will come true this week, as seven sporting spectacles play out for your delectation. On the first day of Christmas the Premier League delivers an all London-affair as Chelsea take on West Ham United at Stamford Bridge. Indulge yourselves with an opening night barnstormer in the NBA as the LA Lakers face the LA Clippers. 

Behind door number three is an all-Premier League clash in the Carabao Cup Quarterfinals, as Everton face Manchester United. Thursday’s festive sporting schedule is headlined by Day 13 of the enthralling Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. There is a feast of NBA action on Christmas Day, with the Boston Celtics’ tie against the Brooklyn Nets topping the bill. 

Don't miss the Boxing Day bonanza of international cricket, as Australia and India lock horns in the 2nd Test. Christmas week concludes in the Midwest where the Green Bay Packers will play host to the high-flying Tennessee Titans.

Monday 21st December 8:00PM GMT – Football: Chelsea v West Ham United 

Two ambitious teams face off in the Premier League as Chelsea host West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London on Monday 21st December at 8:00PM GMT.

Two teams desperate for a win meet in south west London on Monday night as Chelsea and West Ham tussle for three more precious Premier League points. After losing just once in their opening 11 Premier League outings, Chelsea have now lost two on the bounce and have slid to seventh spot ahead of Monday’s tie. With the blues now sitting nine points behind league-leading Liverpool, Frank Lampard will be desperate to find the winning formula against his former employers to get their campaign back on track. Much has been said about the underwhelming starts made by Chelsea’s offensive summer signings, with Kai Havertz netting just once in 11 league appearances, whilst Timo Werner hasn’t scored in five. Will the German duo find their shooting boots on Monday night to fire the Blues to victory? 

Meanwhile, David Moyes appears to finally have his West Ham team singing off the same hymn sheet, having lost just one of their last six games. The Hammers find themselves just one point behind their local adversaries, and a win on Monday night could propel them as high as fifth in England’s top tier. West Ham fans will thank us for reminding them of their incredible recent head-to-head record with Chelsea, which reads three wins, two draws and just one defeat from their last six league meetings. Can Moyes’ men make it three straight wins over the Blues on Monday night, or will Chelsea close the gap on the league’s frontrunners? 

Tuesday 22nd December 3:00AM GMT (Wednesday 23rd) – Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers

One of the most mouth-watering matchups in the NBA calendar will play out on opening night – tip-off comes at 3:00AM GMT from Staples Center.

After the Lakers and Clippers finished first and second in the Western Conference last year, the two LA-based franchises will renew their rivalry in an unmissable opening night duel. It is the purple and gold half of Los Angeles that gained bragging rights last term, as the Lakers won their first NBA title since 2010. The 17-time champions’ hopes of winning back-to-back titles were bolstered in the off-season, when All-Star centre Anthony Davis pledged his future to the Lakers, meaning basketball fans could be treated to five more years of the Davis/LeBron duo. 

Whilst the Lakers were making their unstoppable march to the title, the Clippers were left to watch from the sidelines as they were dumped out in the Conference Semifinals by the Denver Nuggets. However, with the core of the team still intact going into the new campaign, Kawhi Leonard and co. will be eyeing another deep playoff run to finally bring a long-awaited title to the Clippers’ cabinet.

These two sides shared a pre-season meeting earlier this month, when the Lakers ran out 131-106 winners. Will the Clippers exact their revenge in Tuesday’s curtain-raiser, or will the Lakers make a perfect start to their title defence?

Wednesday 23rd December 8:00PM GMT – Football: Everton v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Quarter-final

It’s an all-Premier League clash in this Carabao Cup Quarter-final – the action from Goodison Park starts at 8:00PM GMT.

Everton and Manchester United will push their Premier League ventures to one side on Wednesday night, as they compete for a spot in this year’s Carabao Cup Semifinals. Wednesday’s meeting between these two stalwarts of English football represents their first in this competition since 1993, on which occasion United got the better of their Merseyside adversaries. 

The Toffees have already overcome top flight opposition in their run to the Quarterfinals, defeating West Ham in the previous round. However, they have enjoyed very little success in this competition throughout the club’s illustrious history, having never gone all the way before. Having made two Final appearances in 1977 and 1984, the Toffees’ best runs since have seen them reach two Semi-finals, but will this finally be their year? Carlo Ancelotti is no stranger to silverware, but the English League Cup is one of the very few trophies yet to be listed on the Italian’s resume and he will be desperate to set the record straight this time round.

With the jury still out on whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to take this United team forward, a League Cup victory would certainly help the Norwegian adorn himself to the Old Trafford faithful. Not since 2017 have United’s fans celebrated a cup Final win, which actually came in this very tournament. Having already beaten Everton in the league this term, the Red Devils will be eyeing a similar result to book their spot in the Carabao Cup Semifinals for the second straight campaign. 

Thursday 24th December – Ocean Rowing: Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, a grueling transatlantic rowing race from the Canaries to Antigua, enters its twelfth day on Thursday 24th December.

Things are really starting to heat up in the TWAC 2020 as the teams battle through 3,000 miles of choppy Atlantic waters to contest one of the sport’s grandest prizes. 

Whilst the rest of the world are dragging themselves through tenuous 5k runs, 55 courageous athletes are attempting to row from La Gomera to Antigua through some of the most challenging waters on the planet! The rowers will be asked to traverse waves measuring up to 20ft and waters as deep as 5.28 miles, as they row in two hours shifts, with two hour breaks in between, for 24 hours a day! However, they are all doing it for an honourable cause, with over €6million raised for charities across the globe over the past four years. 

Amongst the frontrunners this week are Latitude 35, whose rowers have combined experiences of completing some of the most challenging endurance events on the planet. The foursome consisting of Todd Hooper, Jimmy Carrol, Jono Mawson and team captain Dixon McDonald have made an impressive start to the gruelling expedition, and head into the second week of action in third spot. However, their motivation for participating goes beyond the personal glory attached with winning the event, with Latitude 35 raising money for four charities close to the rower’s hearts. Latitude 35 are just one of the 21 teams who are making up this year’s entry list, attempting to smash the world record time of 29 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes. Will we see a new record set this year? Keep an eye on the event’s website throughout the week to find out!

Friday 25th December 10:00PM GMT – Basketball: Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets

The primetime game of the Christmas Day NBA fixtures is the matchup between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday 25th December at 10:00PM GMT.

There will be more than a W on offer in this Christmas Day matchup, with the Celtics and the Nets desperate to gain the psychological edge in a stacked Eastern Conference. Many expect these two star-studded franchises to be battling for position atop the Conference all year long, but who will gain the early-season advantage? 

Comparing the two rosters side by side, there is very little to split Boston and Brooklyn. There will be great expectations placed on the young shoulders of Celtics’ duo Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who were intrinsic in guiding their team back to the Conference Finals last term. Tatum led by example last term, recording 23.4 points per game, more than any other Celtic. However, having faltered in the Conference Finals in three of the last four seasons, Boston fans will be left wondering whether they have enough to go one step further this year. 

Meanwhile, in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets possess a dynamic duo capable of rivalling the very best twosomes in the league. With KD absent for all of last season, the Nets faltered to a 4-0 defeat in the First Round at the hands of the Toronto Raptors. However, should the two-time NBA champ manage to remain in good health this term, there is little to suggest that Brooklyn should not be considered title contenders. 

Saturday 26th December 11:30PM GMT – Cricket: Australia v India

After a thrilling first Test, Australia will look to continue their dominance while India are hoping to bounce back as the second Test continues at the MCG in Melbourne on Saturday 26th December at 11:30PM GMT.

There is a barnstorming game of international cricket to feast on this Boxing Day as Australia clash with India, delivered straight from the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The hosts find themselves firmly in the driving seat ahead of the 2nd Test, after demolishing their guests in the initial meeting to take a 1-0 lead into this week’s clash. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Baggy Greens, who initially found themselves trailing after a dominant Virat Kohli display propelled India into a first innings lead. Kohli’s men then capitulated, as India’s cricketing representation slumped to an all-time low in the second innings, when Australia ripped through the Indian batting order, bowling them all out for just 36 runs – their lowest score in Test history.  

That result means the visitors are no longer just playing for crucial Test ranking points, but they will be just as eager to repair some of the reputational damage sustained in last week’s dismal display. However, with captain Kohli returning home for the birth of his first child, India will be left to overturn the 1-0 deficit without their key man. Can the visitors pull off one of the most remarkable Test comebacks in recent history, or will Australia defend their home patch and secure the series?

Sunday 27th December 1:20AM GMT (Monday 28th) – American Football: Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans 

As we near the end of the NFL season, the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans battle for playoff seeding at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Monday 28th December at 1:20AM GMT.

Having won each of their last four outings, the Green Bay Packers seem to have found top gear just at the perfect time, with the playoffs looming large. Last time out, Rodgers led his side to a comfortable 24-16 victory over the spluttering Carolina Panthers, but the two-time MVP will surely face a tougher test this week in the shape of the Tennessee Titans. Being the only team with a winning record in the NFC North, the Packers have already done enough to secure their place in the playoffs. However, Rodgers and his Green Bay teammates will be eager to test themselves against the Titans, who will be more representative of the calibre of opposition they are likely to face in the postseason. 

The aspect of the Packers unit most likely to be given the sternest examination is their rush defence, which has too often been their shortfall this term. In Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, Packers will be faced with the league’s most productive running back this term. With 1,679 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, Tennessee’s most potent weapon has proved just about unstoppable so far, and will likely prove the key to any success the Titans might enjoy this year. Having faltered in the AFC Championship game last season, Tennessee will be desperate to go one step further this season, but must first overcome the test of Green Bay as they eye a third playoff berth in the last four campaigns.

Other sporting highlights from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe firstly go to the PDC Tour, as the William Hill World Darts Championship continues to play out all week long. 

So too will the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, with the ‘World’s Toughest Row’ now in its second week.

There is NCAA College Football action coming slightly earlier than usual this week, as the BYU Cougars and UCF Knights thrash it out on Tuesday night in the Boca Raton Bowl. The NFL brings us a potential Christmas Day classic on Friday as the Saints and Vikings lock horns in New Orleans. There are plenty more ties set to play out in the NFL across the weekend, including: Pittsburgh Steelers versus Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks versus Los Angeles Rams.

There are plenty of international games of cricket taking place across the globe this week, including the 1st Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka. New Zealand will also contest the 1st Test with Pakistan on Christmas Day, but not before they meet in the 3rd and final T20I earlier in the week. The domestic action this week concerns the Big Bash League, as the Sydney Sixers prepare to host the Melbourne Stars.

There is another Carabao Cup Quarter-final involving two Premier League giants in the shape of Arsenal and Manchester City – they will lock horns on Tuesday. Attentions will turn back to the Premier League at the weekend, when Leicester City will face Manchester United and Crystal Palace travel to face Aston Villa. However, the standout clash of the weekend pits Arsenal against Chelsea in a Boxing Day barnstormer. Two teams operating in the upper echelons of La Liga will do battle on Tuesday, as Real Sociedad host Atletico Madrid. 

With the return of the basketball’s grandest league this week, there is a feast of NBA action to indulge in, starting with Tuesday’s offering which involves a revitalised Nets side who will be eyeing a perfect start against the Golden State Warriors. Wednesday’s trifecta sees the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz, the Toronto Raptors entertain the New Orleans Pelicans and the Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks. Three more unmissable ties are set to play out on Friday night as: the Miami Heat face the Pelicans, the Bucks lock horns with the Warriors, and the Lakers thrash it out with the Dallas Mavericks. The weekend’s action is headlined by two blockbuster clashes which will see the Clippers meet the Mavericks and the Indiana Pacers take to the court with the Celtics.

The enthralling Premiership Rugby season continues at the weekend, with Harlequins set to take on Bristol Bears, before Sale Sharks welcome Wasps to the AJ Bell Stadium. There is also Currie Cup action to watch out for this week, as the Bulls meet the Lions in Pretoria.  

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

Fixture

Photos by Chelsea FC, Los Angeles Lakers, Everton, Latitude 35 - TWAC 2020, Brooklyn Nets, Cricket Australia, Green Bay Packers

Written and information correct on 20th December at 9pm GMT

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