There is some fantastic sport on display this week. Divisions will be decided in the NFL - to start the week, the Minnesota Vikings clash with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North; to end it, the San Francisco 49ers and Seahawks go head-to-head to win the NFC West. Big Bash League defending champions, the Melbourne Renegades, look for their first win of the season against the Hobart Hurricanes. There’s a Christmas Day LA rivalry game in the NBA as the Lakers and Clippers face off. The top teams in the Premier League meet as Leicester City host Liverpool. It’s a busy week for international cricket, as Australia and New Zealand continue their Test series and England start their Test series with South Africa.
In the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings host the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota Vikings will welcome the Green Bay Packers to Minneapolis with NFC North superiority on the line. The Vikings have been supreme on their home patch all year and are the only team in the NFL yet to lose a home match this season. Their imperious rushing game has been accountable for much of Minnesota’s success, with Dalvin Cook averaging over 81 yards per game. However, the Packers’ defence will be relieved to learn that the dangerous running back is likely to miss out on Monday’s game through injury. This will hand Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay a boost as they go in search of their sixth first place finish in the NFC North this decade.
The Hobart Hurricanes meet the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League at Blundstone Arena in Hobart.
The Hobart Hurricanes will look to strengthen their start to the new BBL season after going 1-1 in their opening matches. Young Afghan spin-bowler Qais Ahmad has been fantastic for the side, taking five wickets in two games. However, the team’s lack of consistency in run-scoring has proven problematic. Meanwhile, the Renegades enter this match looking for their first win of the season. The defending champions have struggled to find momentum despite standout performances by veteran Shaun Marsh. This should be a great Christmas Eve clash.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers headline the NBA on Christmas Day at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Lakers and Clippers have broken out as the Western Conference’s best teams this season. With their major offseason acquisitions, both LA teams have truly transitioned into superteams. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and their Lakers teammates have dominated and enter the week with only five losses on the season. However, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are hot on their heels, sitting only three games back from their rivals. After missing some time due to injury, Paul George has shown himself to be the perfect partner for Kawhi. This game is what Christmas Day basketball is all about.
Leicester City and Liverpool clash in the Premier League at the King Power Stadium in Leicester.
Leicester City have been the only side to put up any resistance to Liverpool’s title charge so far this term, and the hosts will look to keep touch with the champions elect as the sides meet in an intriguing battle at the summit. Under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, Leicester have formed the joint best defence in the league, having conceded just 14 goals so far. However, Liverpool’s three stars upfront have been troubling defences all season long, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino contributing to 46 goals between them already. The Foxes could inflict a dent in Liverpool’s title bid with a win on Thursday, but a Boxing Day triumph for the Reds will see them end the decade with one hand on the Premier League trophy.
Australia and New Zealand continue their Second Test at the MCG in Melbourne.
New Zealand will look to find momentum against Australia as this second Test enters its second day. They will be eager to move past the bruising 296-run loss they suffered in the first Test. There were some decent performances, but not enough to contend with Australia’s outstanding team effort. In particular, New Zealand need to find a response to Australia’s blistering bowling. For the hosts, they will look to build on their first Test success. They hope part of this continued success will be young Marnus Labuschagne, following his combined 193 runs in the first Test. With New Zealand looking to bounce back and Australia looking to dominate, this will be a great day of cricket.
South Africa and England play the third day of their first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
South Africa will welcome England to Centurion this week for a post-Christmas showdown. These two nations are usually near the top of the Test rankings, and currently reside third and fourth, respectively. However, the hosts have flattered to deceive in their recent Test matches, winning just one of their last four series. They will be looking to the talented youngster Kagiso Rabada to provide the spark as England come to town for the first time since 2016. The 24-year-old currently sits second in the ICC’s Test bowling rankings, proving just how effective he can be in this format. Meanwhile, England’s answer to Rabada in Jofra Archer is facing a race against time to be fit for the 1st Test, and his health could be crucial to the outcome of this fascinating matchup.
The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks meet for an NFL showdown at at CenturyLink Field.
This decade of NFL action will conclude with a blockbuster in the NFC West as the Seattle Seahawks take to the field with the San Francisco 49ers. These franchises have been two of the standout sides in the league this term, and will both be playing playoff football to kickstart 2020. Only the Baltimore Ravens have scored more points than the 49ers this year and their dynamic offence will take some stopping as Jimmy Garoppolo continues to astonish the Bay Area locals. However, Seattle have an MVP-worthy quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson, who has thrown for 29 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions this year. These two teams will both have aspirations of making a Super Bowl appearance, so find out who comes out on top in this final NFL game of the decade.
Honourable mentions around the globe go to the NBA where plenty of fixtures will play out this week, including the Miami Heat versus the Utah Jazz, the Philadelphia 76ers versus the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors versus the Boston Celtics. The William Hill Darts World Championship continues all week long on the PDC Tour as the star-studded field continues to battle it out for a spot in the New Year’s Day final. New Zealand and Australia will thrash it out in the 2nd Test all week long starting on Boxing Day whilst England's 1st Test against South Africa will also play out this week, also starting on Boxing Day. Meanwhile, in the Big Bash League, Perth Scorchers host the Sydney Sixers, whilst the Melbourne Stars entertain the Adelaide Strikers later in the week in two mouthwatering clashes, there is also a derby day on Saturday as the Sixers lock horns with the Sydney Thunder. Friday brings us Premiership Rugby action as Bristol Bears face Wasps, there is a top of the table clash on Saturday as Northampton Saints play host to Gloucester Rugby, whilst on Sunday Saracens travel to Exeter to take on the Chiefs. There are two unmissable NCAA College Football games on Saturday as LSU meet Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, whilst Ohio State face Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the winners of these games will meet in the new year for the College Football Championship. The NFL brings us another weekend packed with intriguing matchups including the Baltimore Ravens against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans versus the Tennessee Titans. The curtain will fall on another decade of incredible Premier League action this weekend, with the festivities headlined by Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea, Liverpool’s game against Wolves and Manchester City’s meeting with Sheffield United.
A week of world class sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!
Photos by NFL, Melbourne Renegades, LA Lakers, Liverpool FC, ICC Cricket
Written and information correct on 22nd December at 10pm GMT
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