This Week in Sport: 29th March – 4th April 2021
Another blockbuster week in the sporting world lies in wait, and it all gets underway in the Golden State where the Los Angeles Clippers will play host to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday in the NBA. The Miami Open continues on Tuesday with both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments providing plenty of unmissable action. We stay in North America for Wednesday’s offering which will see the Winnipeg Jets entertain the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL. Thursday’s a red-letter day in MLB as the new season commences!
Leinster’s Friday night clash with Toulon marks the beginning of the European Rugby Champions Cup knockouts. The Premier League has thrown up another titanic fixture this week – Leicester welcome Manchester City to the King Power on Saturday. Finally, Sunday sees the Women’s March Madness Final play out, but who will be contesting the top prize?
Monday 29th March 2:00AM GMT (Tuesday 30th) – Basketball: Los Angeles Clippers v Milwaukee Bucks
It’s a colossal cross-conference showdown in the NBA on Monday at the Staples Center.
Two of the league’s powerhouses lock horns this week as the Milwaukee Bucks head to the Golden State of California to take on the LA Clippers. After a prolonged recent period of inconsistency, the Clippers have hit their stride in the Western Conference once again, winning each of their last five outings. LA will be full of confidence heading into Monday’s showdown coming off the back of a thrilling victory over championship contenders, the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the Clippers have suffered a woeful run of form against the Bucks in recent seasons, having failed to overcome their Eastern counterparts in any of the last four meetings. Will that dreadful run come to an end on Monday?
The Bucks will certainly hope not as they look to continue their push for top spot in the East. Heading into last weekend, the Bucks were enjoying an eight-game winning streak, which abruptly came to an end against the Celtics on Friday, before compounding that loss with defeat to the New York Knicks over the weekend. Despite the recent run of poor form, one Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to be a shining light for the Bucks, with the ‘Greek Freak’ leading his team in points, rebounds and steals. With Milwaukee still very much in touching distance of top spot, as they sit just 2.5 games behind, can they continue their charge with victory on Monday?
Tuesday 30th March 3:00PM GMT – Tennis: Miami Open
The Men’s and Women’s Miami Open tournaments continue on Tuesday at the Hard Rock Stadium.
The action continues to come thick and fast from Miami Gardens this week, with Tuesday marking the start of the Women’s Quarterfinals and Men’s Fourth Round. Headlining Tuesday’s action in the Men’s game will be none other than Daniel Medvedev, who remains the highest ranked player in the competition. After receiving a bye in the First Round, the Russian cruised to victory in the Second before defeating Alexei Popyrin in a similar fashion on Sunday to book his spot in Tuesday’s Fourth Round. As the highest ranked player, Medvedev will be playing with a target on his back all week long, but will he be the man to reign supreme at Hard Rock Stadium?
Featuring in the Women’s draw on Tuesday is the Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka, who has impressed in the early rounds in Miami. Osaka will be one of the favourites to go all the way this week as she looks to add another prestigious title to her honour roll. After winning the US Open last year and the Australian Open at the start of 2021, the 23-year-old remains one of the WTA’s form players, but can anyone stop her on her way to glory this week? Looking to do just that will be defending champion Ashleigh Barty, who is also playing some quality tennis right now. The world number one has had a disappointing run of results in recent competitions however, and she will be desperate to come out on top once again in Miami this week.
Wednesday 31st March 11:30PM GMT – Ice Hockey: Winnipeg Jets v Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s another heavyweight clash in the NHL on Wednesday with all the action coming from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.
Two title-chasing rivals lock horns in this Wednesday thriller as the Winnipeg Jets welcome table-toppers Toronto to the MTS Centre. After a mixed bag of results last week, Winnipeg lost ground on their North Division rivals, but still reside in second spot just two points behind the pace-setters. This particular fixture has been seemingly impossible to predict in recent editions, with each side winning three of the last six meetings between them. However, the Jets certainly have plenty of difference-makers in their ranks and none more prolific than Mark Scheifele who is continuing to post astronomical figures this term. With 40 points to his name already, the perennial Scheifele currently leads his team in the points column, having appeared in each of Winnipeg’s 35 games thus far. Will Scheifele be the game-winner on Wednesday?
Having won three straight matches, and two on the bounce by way of OT, the Toronto Maple Leafs are making their push for top spot in the North. This title charge will be long overdue in the eyes of the Maple Leafs faithful, who last saw their side top the division standings in the 1999/00 season. With 81 points between them, Toronto’s one-two punch of Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews continues to dominate defences across the country. Matthews has particularly impressed of late, and added both a goal and an assist to his personal tally in their most recent outing against the Edmonton Oilers. Which side will come out on top in this intriguing matchup?
Thursday 1st April 5:05PM GMT – Baseball: New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
Opening night is finally upon us in the MLB!
The eagerly anticipated brand-new MLB season kicks off on Thursday, with the New York Yankees topping the bill as they take on the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s been an agonising five-month wait since the LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series in a thrilling Game 6, but which side will be reigning supreme this time round?
The opening salvo of New York Yankees versus Toronto Blues Jays presents itself as an intriguing matchup for followers of the MLB. Despite eventually securing a playoff berth after finding their form late on in the campaign, last season we saw anything but a vintage Yankees side, who will be desperate to secure a better start this time round. The New York Yankees are far and away the most successful team in World Series history, winning a colossal 27 championships – they have lost more World Series’ than the next best team have won! However, with their last success coming all the way back in 2009, the Yankees are long overdue a return to the Promised Land and, should they make a faster start and avoid as many injury issues, they can surely be considered title contenders once again this year.
Meanwhile, their fellow AL East contenders made a long-awaited return to the playoffs last time out after the Blue Jays failed to qualify in three straight seasons. Whilst it can be argued that Toronto’s playoff cause was certainly aided by the condensed nature of last season, it is hard to argue the fact that they have a playoff-worthy squad that will be desperate to become postseason contenders once more. Whilst it doesn’t bode well that the Yankees won the spring training mini-series by five games to two, that is far from an accurate barometer of where this Toronto team is at. Buckle up – the seven-month journey to the World Series starts right here!
Friday 2nd April 4:30PM GMT – Rugby Union: Leinster v Toulon
**THE MATCH HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO A COVID-19 CASE IN THE TOULON SQUAD**
The knockout stage of the European Rugby Champions Cup begins with Leinster facing Toulon at RDS Arena in Dublin on Friday 2nd April 2021 at 4:30PM GMT.
All the fun and games of the Champions Cup knockout phase lie in wait, but which team will come out on top this time round?
One team who will certainly be holding lofty expectations this term is Leinster who topped the pool stage with a perfect record still intact. Leinster go into the knockout phase as one of the form teams just now, having won eight of their last nine in the Pro14. The Irish outfit will be hoping to carry that domestic form onto the European stage, as they seek to make history at this year’s competition. With their last cup win back in 2018, Leinster tied Toulouse for the most Champions Cup victories with four. Now, having squandered one opportunity to move clear in 2019, Leinster are presented with the opportunity once again, but must first overcome the hurdle of Toulon before any conversations of a fifth title can really begin.
Whilst their opponents will pin their hopes on hosting a title parade in a few months’ time, Toulon’s aspirations are likely to be slightly more modest, and progression past this stage could represent a respectable result at this year’s competition. The French outfit finished seventh in the pool stage having won one and lost the other of the two outings. Having won just two of their last six outings, Toulon head into this clash in no sort of form at all. Furthermore, a good indicator for how they may fare in this game came in their last outing against Lyon, winners of the other pool in this competition, who duly handed Toulon a 54-16 drubbing. Will we see a minor miracle on Friday or will Leinster’s march to the title continue?
Saturday 3rd April 4:30PM GMT – Football: Leicester City v Manchester City
First plays third in this Premier League blockbuster!
Whilst many of the plaudits will go the way of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City this term, Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester side certainly deserve plenty of credit, with a Champions League spot now firmly in their grasp. The Foxes have lost just one of the last eight league outings and went into the international break on the back of a 3-1 triumph in the FA Cup over fellow top four contenders United. This particular Premier League fixture will evoke memories of one of the games of the season as Leicester came away from the Etihad with a stunning 5-2 win back in September. Whilst a repeat of that score line is probably unlikely, a win for Rodgers’ side would go some way to securing their top four position, but can they topple the table toppers?
Pep Guardiola is delivering another clinic on how to win the Premier League this term. His side have scored more goals, conceded fewer, won more games and lost fewer than any other top flight outfit this term, and his Sky Blues are currently sitting pretty, a mere 14 points clear at the top of the tree. With nine games left to play, City need just four wins to seal the title before their attentions can turn to reeling in a historic quadruple this season. Will the title charge continue on Saturday or will Leicester delay the coronation?
Sunday 4th April 10.00PM – Basketball: NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship Game
The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship concludes with the National Championship Game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday 4th April 2021 at 10:00PM GMT.
It has been another exhilarating month of NCAA basketball, but for the Women in the college game, it all comes down to this. On Sunday one team will be left standing to be crowned NCAA Champions, but with plenty of fixtures left to play out before then, we won’t know which two teams will contest the showpiece event until Friday.
The final will mark the conclusion of one of the best editions of the Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championship. Something that has made the tournament so engaging is the lack of a clear tournament favourite, with several teams having claims as legitimate title contenders. Connecticut will look to secure national championship number 12 on the back of freshman phenom Paige Bueckers. Baylor hopes of defending their 2019 title lays with their senior leaders. Can Stanford finally find a third national title? Or does a surprise winner lurk in the likes of Indiana, Arizona, and Texas?
Sunday’s unmissable title game will provide the answer to who is college women’s basketball’s best team.
Honourable mentions from around the globe
Honourable mentions around the globe firstly go to the NCAA Tournament with plenty of games from both the Men’s and Women’s brackets scheduled throughout the week, including the Final Four on Friday and Saturday. There is plenty more NBA to follow this week too, starting with the Denver Nuggets’ clash with the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. The Phoenix Suns then take the stage as they do battle with the Atlanta Hawks. The Memphis Grizzlies have the unenviable task of taking on the high-flying Utah Jazz on Wednesday, whilst the LA Lakers meet the Bucks on the same day. The Nuggets return to action later in the week as they go on the road to face the Clippers, whilst the San Antonio Spurs lock horns with the Hawks. The New York Knicks will take on the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, before the 76ers entertain the Grizzlies and the Lakers face off with the Clippers on Sunday.
The week’s football gets underway on Tuesday with the continuation of the U-21 Euros, with Spain’s young stars meeting the Czech Republic in the pick of the ties. Meanwhile England are in action the following day when they will take on Croatia. The senior team also have business to tend to on the very same evening, with Poland their latest opponents in World Cup qualification. Two finely balanced ties will play out in the Women’s Champions League on Wednesday with Wolfsburg facing Chelsea and Lyon hosting PSG. Two Bundesliga ties headline the weekend’s action in Germany with Borussia Dortmund entertaining Eintracht Frankfurt whilst RB Leipzig thrash it out with Bayern Munich. There’s an intriguing matchup to look forward to from Spain’s La Liga as Granada take on Villarreal. Arsenal welcome the Premier League champions to the Emirates on Saturday for another unmissable affair. It’s cup Final day in Spain – the Copa del Rey Final (2020 edition!) pits Real Sociedad against Athletic Bilbao. Sticking with Spain’s top tier, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid do battle on Sunday.
The 2nd Test between the West Indies and Sri Lanka gets underway on Monday and will play out throughout the week. New Zealand and Australia’s Women meet in the 2nd T20I on Tuesday, before contesting the 3rd T20I on Thursday ahead of the 1st ODI on Sunday. New Zealand's Men and Bangladesh will share the pitch on Tuesday as they thrash out the 2nd T20I, before meeting again on Thursday for the 3rd T20I. Meanwhile, South Africa will play host to Pakistan this week with the sides scheduled to contest the 1st ODI on Friday and the 2nd on Sunday.
The NHL games continue to come thick and fast this week and proceedings begin with a Monday double header that will see the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins entertain the New York Islanders. The Islanders return to the ice on Thursday when they will face the Washington Capitals whilst the Vegas Golden Knights will meet the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena on both Thursday and Saturday. The Jets and Maple Leafs will continue this week’s mini-series with a Friday showdown.
Keep up to date with all the play from both the Men’s and Women’s Miami Open tournaments, with both continuing from Monday.
UK readers may well be making their return to the course this week, but keep an eye on both the ANA Inspiration and Valero Texas Open, with those two tournaments playing out across the weekend on the LPGA and PGA Tours, respectively.
There is a double helping of AFL action on Saturday in the shape of Richmond versus the Sydney Swans and the West Coast Eagles against Port Adelaide.
NRL followers will be eagerly anticipating another heavyweight duel at the weekend with the Knights and the Dragons taking centre stage on Sunday. The Super League has also thrown up another unmissable bout which will see Huddersfield Giants take on Catalans Dragons on Saturday.
Carl Frampton will look to become the latest British world champion when he takes on WBO World Super Featherweight champ Jamel Herring on Saturday night.
The Boat Race will play out on Sunday afternoon as Oxford and Cambridge’s Men and Women tussle it out in two prestigious races on the River Great Ouse.
There is plenty of Rugby Union action scheduled for this weekend, starting with the Champions Cup fixtures which will see: Wasps face ASM Clermont Auvergne, Munster entertain Stade Toulousain, and Exeter Chiefs take on Lyon, before Bordeaux-Begles meet Bristol Bears the following day. This weekend’s Major League offering sees Rugby ATL lock horns with San Diego Legion at Lupo Family Field. Meanwhile it’s the Blues versus the Hurricanes in Super Rugby Aotearoa this week. The Women’s Six Nations takes to our screens on Saturday when England will do battle with Scotland and France with Wales.
MotoGP fans will be gearing up for the weekend’s action, which comes in the shape of the Doha GP.
A world-class week of sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!
Photos by Milwaukee Bucks, Naomi Osaka, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Yankees, Leinster Rugby, Manchester City, Indiana Women's Basketball
Written and information correct on 28th March at 8pm GMT