This Week in Sport: 25th – 31st January 2021

Before we get into this week’s events, Fixture Calendar would like to pay tribute to baseball legend Hank Aaron, who passed away at age 86 on Friday January 22nd.

Another busy week of sporting action lies in wait and it all gets underway in Galle where Sri Lanka and England will meet on Day 4 of the 2nd Test. The first of three Premier League affairs set to headline our schedule this week will see Southampton and Arsenal do battle just three days after their FA Cup meeting. The best of the East face the best of the West in Wednesday’s NBA showdown, as the Philadelphia 76ers prepare to host the Los Angeles Lakers. 

We return to England’s top flight on Thursday for our second instalment of Premier League action, when Tottenham Hotspur take on champions Liverpool. It’s a West Country derby in the Premiership on Friday as the Bristol Bears lock horns with Bath Rugby. Football fans will be treated to another edition of one of the Premier League’s grandest fixtures on Saturday, when Arsenal face Manchester United. We end the week on the ice in Minnesota, as the Minnesota Wild entertain the Colorado Avalanche in an NHL blockbuster. 

Monday 25th January 4:30AM GMT – Cricket: Sri Lanka v England (Day 4, 2nd Test)

It’s all to play for on Day 4 in Galle – who will have the upper hand after this crucial day’s play? You can find out from 4:30AM GMT.

An electrifying Test showdown is continuing to unfold on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, with the 2nd Test still very much in the balance after three days of play. At stumps after Day 3, England remain at the crease, just, sitting on 339/9 in response to their host’s opening gambit of 381. The third day’s play was defined by yet another monumental stand by England captain Joe Root, who is certainly the flavour of the month in Sri Lanka. The Yorkshire batsman followed up his double century in the 1st Test with a 186-run contribution in the 2nd to keep his country alive in this finely-poised match. 

Root would have been readying himself to return to the crease on Monday morning to try and record a second consecutive double century. However, on the very last ball of the 3rd day, a smart piece of Sri Lankan fielding put an end to Root’s immense innings, meaning the hosts need just one more wicket on Monday before they return to the crease. With England trailing Sri Lanka by 42 runs heading into the fourth day’s play, the home side remain slight favourites. However, they will be wary of England’s bowling attack, which will look to blow away Sri Lanka’s batting order at the second time of asking.

Tuesday 26th January 8:15PM GMT – Football: Southampton v Arsenal 

The Saints and the Gunners meet for the third time this season– this crucial Premier League fixture starts at 8:15PM GMT at St. Mary’s. 

These two top-flight titans have become very well acquainted in recent months, and will meet for the third time in the space of 42 days on Tuesday evening. Whilst the Premier League clash before Christmas ended all square, Southampton came out on top in their most recent meeting last week, as the Saints defeated the FA Cup holders to book their place in Round 5. That was just one result in a string of positive outcomes for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men in recent weeks, who have conceded just twice in their last six outings. That supreme return has kept Southampton firmly in the race for European football, and currently reside just five points behind fourth spot. 

However, with just two points separating Tuesday’s adversaries, Arsenal will be looking to leapfrog their south coast hosts to return to the top half of the table. In spite of all the doom and gloom surrounding the north London outfit just now, their recent Premier League form is more than respectable. Mikel Arteta’s men have won four of their last five top-flight outings, conceding just once in that time. However, their FA Cup exit at the weekend was a devastating setback for the Spaniard, whose team selection on Saturday raised more than a few eyebrows amongst Arsenal supporters. With the heavy-hitters set to return to the fray this weekend, can the Gunners continue their impressive league form to bring their European dreams into sharper focus?

Wednesday 27th January 12:30AM GMT (Thursday 28th) – Basketball: Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers

NBA matchups hardly come much bigger than this – tip-off at Wells Fargo Center comes at 12:30AM GMT on Thursday. 

Could Wednesday’s clash be a dress rehearsal for this season’s NBA Finals matchup? Whilst both teams have made similarly impressive starts to their respective campaigns, there is lots of basketball to be played before July, but 76ers and Lakers will certainly hope to still be in the mix come Finals week. 

Thanks in no small part to Joel Embiid’s contribution of 33 points, Philadelphia recorded their third straight win at the weekend as they edged past the Detroit Pistons. That win saw the 76ers extend their lead atop the Eastern Conference, and remain in good shape as they chase a fourth straight playoff berth. Surprisingly, Philadelphia are yet to overcome Western Conference opponents this season, having lost to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets in their two previous attempts. However, supporters have been left salivating over Philly’s form on their home court this term, where they have lost just once in their last 10 outings. 

Meanwhile, the Lakers can currently boast the best away record in the entire league, with the ‘Purple and Gold’ yet to lose on their travels. There is another good omen for Lakers fans ahead of Wednesday’s showdown, in that they have won all three games against Eastern opposition this season, including a thriller against last year’s Conference toppers, the Milwaukee Bucks. Something has to give on Wednesday, but will it be the reigning champs who preserve their perfect away record, or will Philadelphia extend their unbeaten run?

Thursday 28th January 8:00PM GMT – Football: Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool 

Whose Premier League title dreams will be dealt a blow in north London on Thursday night? Tune in from 8:00PM GMT to find out. 

Such is the grandeur of these two famous clubs, there is always plenty on the line when Tottenham and Liverpool meet. From the 2019 Champions League Final, to their more recent top-of-the-table clash, this fixture is often billed as a winner takes all. With Tottenham propelling themselves into a wide-open title race this season, games like this will be the acid test to see if the north Londoners can really mix it with the big boys at the top. Tottenham’s story this season has been defined by their apparent inability to retain the lead in games – a trait which has brought into question their title credentials. However, a win over the reigning champions would certainly send a message to their title rivals. Can Tottenham exorcise their Merseyside demons to finally get one over on Jurgen Klopp’s Reds? 

Whilst this has been a high-pressure game in recent seasons, Liverpool have regularly passed the Tottenham test. In fact, the Reds have lost just one of their last 18 meetings with the Lilywhites, a run stretching all the way back to 2013. In that time, Liverpool have racked up 13 wins against Thursday’s adversaries, and another win this week would set their title defence back on the right path. There have been a few bumps in that particular path in recent weeks, with Klopp’s men spluttering to a winless run of five league matches since demolishing Crystal Palace before Christmas, failing to score in their last four to boot. Their most notable result came last time out against Burnley as the Clarets became the first side to win a Premier League fixture at Anfield since April 2017. Jurgen Klopp has never lost back-to-back league games during his Liverpool tenure, will we see that record end this week?

When these two teams met last month, Tottenham and Liverpool were sitting first and second, respectively. Whilst both teams have slipped down the standings since, this fixture will still have strong implications in the title race – you won’t want to miss a minute! 

Friday 29th January 7:45PM GMT – Rugby Union: Bristol Bears v Bath Rugby 

There’s a West Country derby in the Premiership on Friday – the battle will commence at 7:45PM GMT. 

As the old adage goes, form goes out the window on derby day. Bath will certainly be hoping that is the case on Friday, with Neal Hatley’s men having lost four-straight outings in all competitions. That dismal run has left Bath lingering down in ninth place in the Gallagher Premiership, a whole 12 points behind their local adversaries and upcoming opponents. This famous team is one of just four Premiership ever-presents, but disappointingly, the last of their six titles came all the way back in 1996, when the league operated under the guise of the Courage League Division 1. The visitors will be desperate for a win on Friday night to kickstart their 34th season in the Premiership. 

Travel just 30 minutes down the A4 and the outlook appears somewhat rosier, as Bristol continue to set the pace in the Premiership. Since losing to Wasps in their season-opener, the Bears have constructed a five-game winning streak in the league which has propelled them to the summit, where they currently sit four points ahead of the chasing pack. Their two standout results from that impressive run have come in the last two weeks, as they overcame their closest title challengers in the Newcastle Falcons and Exeter Chiefs. 

These two famous stalwarts of the sport first met over 130 years ago, when Bath reportedly ran out 5-3 winners in front of around 700 supporters. Whilst there will be no fans in attendance on Friday, there will be thousands of supporters watching from home hoping for a slightly more entertaining affair! 

Saturday 30th January 5:30PM GMT – Football: Arsenal v Manchester United

An age-old Premier League rivalry will be renewed on Saturday – kick-off in north London comes at 5:30PM GMT. 

For years, Arsenal and Manchester United were the only two real title contenders in England’s top tier. In fact, in the first 12 seasons since the Premier League’s establishment in 1992, 11 of the 12 titles went the way of either Arsenal or United, with Blackburn Rovers the only other side to top the table in that time. However, with United last winning the title in 2013, and Arsenal back in 2004, there is a very different feel to this fixture these days.

Manchester United are doing their bit to keep this fixture a top-of-the-table affair, with the Red Devils currently occupying top spot in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men remain unbeaten away from Old Trafford this term, winning eight and drawing two from their 10 games on the road. However, the Emirates hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for United in recent years, who haven’t won a league game there since 2017, losing on their two subsequent visits. In fact, Arsenal are currently enjoying a five-game unbeaten league run against the Red Devils, meaning Solskjaer remains winless against Arsenal in the Premier League. Will all that change this week, or can Arsenal extend their impressive run to close the gap on the top four? 

Sunday 31st January 1:00AM GMT (Monday 1st February) – Ice Hockey: Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche

We end this month of sporting action at the Xcel Energy Center, where two NHL heavyweights will lock horns – play begins at 1:00AM GMT on Monday. 

Two West Division rivals will share the ice on Sunday as the Wild welcome the Avalanche to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It’s the hosts who have made the superior start to the new season, with Minnesota currently residing in top spot in the West. Win streaks are typically hard to come by in the highly competitive NHL, but the Wild won back-to-back games last week, and have lost just one of their opening five fixtures. Minnesota’s early-season success has been built on a watertight defence which has given up just two goals per game so far. The Wild will be desperate to make an impression in the playoffs this season, having failed to reach the Second Round since 2015, and some early-season momentum would surely help set the franchise on their way to amending that. 

Meanwhile, Colorado have flattered to deceive in the early knockings of this new season, currently boasting a record of 3-2. Avalanche supporters have had very little to cheer about from home so far, but they will be encouraged by the impressive form of star man Nathan MacKinnon, who has seemingly picked up from where he left off last term. The four-time NHL All Star leads his team in points this term, having netted twice and recorded five assists from his first five appearances. Disappointingly, since joining Colorado in 2013, MacKinnon has never progressed past the Second Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Will MacKinnon help his side overcome Minnesota to get their season on the right track, or can the Wild stifle their Divisional rivals of any early-season momentum?  

Other sporting highlights from around the globe

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the cricket, with the action beginning in Adelaide on Monday when the Strikers face the Thunder in a Big Bash League extravaganza. There is an international offering on the same day which will see Bangladesh and West Indies thrash it out in the 3rd ODI at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. We return to Australia’s BBL the following day for an unmissable double header, featuring Brisbane Heat’s clash with the Perth Scorchers and the Melbourne Stars’ meeting with the Sydney Sixers. Tuesday is a busy day on the international stage too, with some of the world’s elite sides in action. Pakistan will get their Test series against South Africa underway when the two sides meet at National Stadium Karachi on Day 1 of the 1st Test – that match will be contested through the week. There are also two unmissable ODI fixtures as Afghanistan entertain Ireland in the 3rd ODI, whilst South Africa and Pakistan’s Women meet in the 3rd ODI match of their thrilling series. South Africa and Pakistan’s female representatives will return to action later in the week, this time to do battle in the 1st and 2nd T20Is on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Finally, the eagerly anticipated Big Bash League playoffs begin in earnest this week, with the Eliminator, Qualifier and Knockout games taking place across the weekend. 

Followers of the NHL will have plenty to get excited about this week, with the busy schedule getting underway on Tuesday when the Carolina Hurricanes entertain the Tampa Bay Lightning, before the two sides do battle once more two days later. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders will also play out a double header across the weekend, as the two sides meet at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday and Sunday. The Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche will play out the first of their two meetings across the weekend on Saturday night. 

There are plenty of storylines from the NBA to follow this week, starting with LeBron James’ return to Cleveland on Monday as the Cavaliers welcome his Lakers to Quicken Loans Arena. The Utah Jazz will look to extend their winning run to nine games on Wednesday night when they take on the New York Knicks. The LA Clippers will be eyeing a fourth-straight win over the Miami Heat when the two sides meet at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday. The two most successful teams in NBA Finals history meet on Saturday night, as the Boston Celtics entertain the Los Angeles Lakers. We end the week with an unmissable double header, as the Knicks face the Clippers and the Pacers host the 76ers on Sunday. 

This week in football starts in unfamiliar territory for Tottenham Hotspur, as they travel to Adams Park for a Fourth Round FA Cup clash with Wycombe Wanderers. Meanwhile, the Premier League fixtures continue to come thick and fast this week, with Wednesday’s double offering seeing Chelsea host Wolves and Everton entertain Leicester. Two unlikely candidates in the race for European football meet at the weekend, as Southampton welcome Aston Villa to St. Mary’s. Sunday’s action is defined by two key fixtures with ramifications at the top of the standings, as Leicester face Leeds and West Ham do battle with Liverpool. In the Bundesliga, 1. FC Union Berlin will look to snap their two-game losing streak when they welcome high-flying Borussia Mönchengladbach to the capital. There is another clash at the top end of the standings on Saturday which will see RB Leipzig lock horns with Bayer Leverkusen. The standout fixture in La Liga this week concerns Villarreal’s meeting with Real Sociedad, set to play out on Saturday. Two Serie A sides still well in the hunt for European football lock horns on Sunday as Atalanta host Lazio. 

Sailing fans will be eagerly following the goings on at the Prada Cup, which continues all week long. 

This week’s action from the world of golf takes us all across the globe. Whilst the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is contested on the European Tour, the PGA Tour will be hosting the Farmers Insurance Open in California over 8,000 miles apart. 

All will seem right with the world when darts returns to our screens on Friday, coming in the shape of the Ladbrokes Masters

Premiership Rugby continues this weekend, with Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks meeting on Friday, before the in-form Wasps go up against Harlequins on Sunday. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Pro14 Rugby matchup will pit Scarlets against Leinster Rugby. The showpiece affair of the weekend is undoubtedly the Bulls meeting with the Sharks, as the two sides contest the Currie Cup Final at Loftus Versfeld. 

Sunday is a busy day on the ATP and WTA World Tours, with four tournaments getting underway simultaneously. In the Men’s game, the Murray River Open begins at Melbourne Park, whilst the curtain also rises on the Great Ocean Road Open at the same venue. Melbourne Park will also play host to the two events on the WTA World Tour which come in the shape of the Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic. 

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


Photos by England Cricket, Arsenal, Lakers, Tottenham Hotspur, Bristol Bears, Manchester United, Minnesota Wild

Written and information correct on 24th January at 9pm GMT

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