This Week in Sport: 4th – 10th January 2021

We really are starting the year as we mean to go on as we bring another seven offerings from the sporting world this week. Proceedings begin on the South Coast of England as Southampton and Liverpool thrash it out in a Premier League bout. Attentions turn to the NBA on Tuesday, when the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz will lock horns. 

Football returns the following evening in the shape of a Carabao Cup Semi-final featuring Manchester United and Manchester City. Australia and India’s epic duel continues on Thursday as they contest Day 1 of the 3rd Test. 

The Premier League champs return to action on Friday, this time in the FA Cup, to take on Aston Villa. There is a Premiership Rugby clash not to missed on Saturday as Exeter Chiefs do battle with Bristol Bears, before Sunday sees the Tennessee Titans take to the field with the Baltimore Ravens as the NFL playoffs begin. 

Monday 4th January 8:00PM GMT – Football: Southampton v Liverpool 

Two of the Premier League’s form sides meet at St. Mary’s on Monday night – kick-off comes at 8:00PM GMT. 

There is little doubt that Ralph Hasenhüttl has transformed Southampton into European contenders once again, with the Saints sitting just three points outside the top four. However, whilst they remain difficult to beat, having lost just one of their last six, their attacking force has been unproductive of late, having netted just once in their last four league outings. After three consecutive bottom-half finishes, the St. Mary’s faithful will be desperate to see their beloved Saints return to the upper echelons of England’s top tier, but can they set out their stool and topple Klopp’s rampant Reds?

The Liverpool winning machine of last season has turned into more of a drawing device this time round, with only Brighton having recorded more stalemates than the Reds. Three of those have come in the last five outings, all against teams in the bottom six, which has seen Klopp’s men concede ground to the chasing pack in the title race. Even Southampton, who currently sit eight spots behind the league-leaders in ninth, can move to within three points of the defending champions with a win on Monday night. However, Southampton have lost six-straight league games against their Merseyside adversaries by an aggregate score of 17-2. Will history repeat itself on Monday night, or will the Saints finally get one over on Jurgen Klopp? 

Tuesday 5th January 12:30AM GMT (Wednesday 6th) – Basketball: Brooklyn Nets v Utah Jazz

In the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets host the Utah Jazz at Barclays Center in New York City on Wednesday 6th January 2021 at 12:30AM GMT.

Before a ball was tipped this season, both the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz would have held high hopes of reaching the playoffs. Whilst we are still in the early knockings of the season, and those hopes are still very much alive, both sides have made indifferent starts to their respective campaigns. An early-season record of 3-4 is only enough to see Brooklyn take ninth place in the Eastern Conference ahead of this week’s action. There will be few complaints from Nets fans about what has been happening at the offensive end of the floor, with Brooklyn currently boasting the fifth best points average in the league. However, having given up just under 112 points per game so far this term, their defensive displays have left much to be desired, leaving Steve Nash with plenty to ponder ahead of the visit of the Utah Jazz this week. 

Utah have been slightly more impressive so far this term, and currently posses a record of 4-2. After defeating the San Antonio Spurs at the weekend, the Jazz have now won back-to-back games for the first time this season, and Quin Snyder will be desperate to extend their winning run this week as his quest to bring a first NBA title to Utah continues. Utah Jazz fans will hold high hopes of extending their winning run this week as their side travel to Barclays Center, where they haven’t lost since 2017. In fact, seven of the last eight meetings between these two franchises have gone the way of Utah. Will that impressive run be upheld this week, or will Brooklyn begin to set the record straight with a long-awaited W? 

Wednesday 6th January 7:45PM GMT – Football: Manchester United v Manchester City 

The storied Mancunian rivals meet in the semifinals of the Carabao Cup as Manchester United host Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester on Wednesday 6th January 2021 at 7:45PM GMT.

It is a busy week of domestic cup action for both these teams, who will be preparing for their respective FA Cup Third Round ties at the weekend. However, before that there is the small matter of a Manchester derby to contend with, with more than just bragging rights on the line this time. United will be looking to reach their first Carabao Cup Final since the 2016/17 season when, under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, they went all the way. With the Red Devils flying high in the Premier League, they will be full of confidence heading into Wednesday’s derby date with City, who have been the team to beat in this particular competition over recent seasons. 

Astoundingly, Pep Guardiola has guided City to three consecutive Carabao Cup triumphs, and is now eyeing a fourth-straight success. Not since the great Liverpool team of the 1980s achieved the feat between 1981-84 has a team won this competition four years running. Should City go on to lift the trophy in April, they will match Liverpool’s record of eight League Cup wins. However, Guardiola must first navigate his way past a Manchester United side who remain unbeaten in their last three meetings with the Citizens. What’s more, United possess an impeccable record in this year’s Carabao Cup, having won their initial three outings by an aggregate score of 8-0. 

The Sky Blues last lost a Carabao Cup tie way back in October 2016, which just so happened to be at the hands of their local rivals, but which team will book their spot in April’s Final on Wednesday night? 

Thursday 7th January 11:30PM GMT – Cricket: Australia v India 

An enthralling Test series will rumble on in Sydney this week – the action from the 3rd Test starts at 11:30PM GMT. 

Cricket fans around the world have been gripped by the goings on Down Under in recent weeks, where Australia and India have been entangled in an epic Test battle. After the hosts convincingly took the series lead after a dramatic 1st Test, the tourists fought back courageously in the second to restore parity, meaning the series is still very much on a knife-edge.

After dismissing India’s entire batting order for just 36 runs in what was a historic 1st Test, Australia would have certainly been expecting to kick on to comfortably record their third-straight Test win on home turf. However, their visitors had distinctly different plans, as a severely depleted India side limited Australia to just 395 runs from their two innings at the crease in the 2nd Test. This allowed India to stroll to victory with a day to spare, which perfectly tees up an unmissable third meeting between two of the sport’s heavy-hitters on the international scene.

This 3rd Test is the most significant of the series so far, with India knowing a win would ensure they retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy once again. Meanwhile, Australia will be looking to defend their position atop the Test team rankings with victory on home turf. 

Friday 8th January 7:45PM GMT – Football: Aston Villa v Liverpool

Two Premier League giants meet in the FA Cup Third Round at 7:45PM GMT on Friday. 

As the FA Cup proper gets underway this weekend, the pick of the ties concerns Liverpool’s trip to Villa Park, as the Reds return to the scene of the crime. Before Liverpool’s last visit to Villa’s famous home, they had not conceded seven goals in a game since 1963. That all changed back in October, as Dean Smith’s men recorded a historic 7-2 victory. Jurgen Klopp will surely be out for revenge on Friday night, as he looks to deliver the FA Cup to Anfield for the very first time in his tenure. 

Aston Villa and Liverpool are two of the most successful teams in this particular competition, having enjoyed seven victories apiece. However, whilst Liverpool’s last triumph came in 2006, Aston Villa haven’t tasted FA Cup success since 1957, with their best return since coming in the shape of two runners-up awards in 2000 and 2015. In fact, Villa have been knocked out in the Third Round in each of their last four attempts. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s recent FA Cup record makes for similarly grim reading, with their last run to the Final coming back in the 2011/12 season. Since then, they have progressed past Round 5 on just one of their subsequent eight attempts. Will Liverpool exercise their Villa Park demons, or can Dean Smith mastermind another famous result?

Saturday 9th January 2:00PM GMT – Rugby Union: Exeter Chiefs v Bristol Bears 

First plays second in the Premiership this weekend – the action from Sandy Park starts at 2:00PM GMT on Saturday. 

The two stand-out performers of this Premiership Rugby season so far will finally lock horns on Saturday afternoon, with the winner grasping top spot in the standings. 

After making the perfect start to the new campaign, winning their first four outings, Exeter were handed their first league defeat of the season last time out. Even though the Chiefs fielded a vastly weakened side, their confidence would have taken a major hit, as Wasps recorded a five-try bonus-point victory. The reigning champions will look to bounce back immediately this week, as they welcome their closest title rivals to Sandy Park. 

Coincidentally, Wasps are also accountable for Bristol’s only league loss of the season thus far, having inflicted defeat over the Bears on the opening weekend back in November. Since then, Bristol have been untouchable, winning their subsequent four outings, but Saturday’s tie will provide them their toughest test since the start of the season. The Chiefs have offered very little solace to the Bears in recent years, with the Devon-based outfit having won four of the last five matchups. 

This clash pits the two highest scoring teams in the Premiership against one another, so expect a thrilling match in Devon on Saturday!

Sunday 10th January 6:05PM GMT - American Football: Tennessee Titans v Baltimore Ravens

Postseason football in the NFL starts this weekend, and the Wild Card Round has produced a blockbuster matchup – kick-off in Tennessee is at 6:05PM GMT on Sunday. 

With six thrilling NFL Wild Card games taking place this weekend this clash is the pick of the action. Whilst Tennessee have been one of the most potent offensive forces in the league, Baltimore can boast one of the stingiest defences, as well as last year’s Most Valuable Player at QB. However, the pressure is starting to mount on said Quarterback, as Lamar Jackson heads into this year’s postseason with a career playoff record of 0-2, having stumbled at the first hurdle in his two previous attempts. One of those attempts came last year in the Divisional Round, when a certain Derrick Henry went off for 195 rushing yards to power his side Titans to victory. 

The 5th season pro seemingly picked up right from where he left off last term, and leads the league in regular season rushing yards with a remarkable 2,027 on the year. He will be relishing the challenge in the Wild Card Round against a team who have dealt relatively well with the rush so far, giving up just over 106 yards per game in that category. After narrowly losing out in the AFC Championship game last year, can Derrick Henry and co. go two better this time round to bring a maiden Super Bowl back to Nissan Stadium?

Honourable mentions from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the NBA, with the week’s action starting in New Orleans, as the Pelicans entertain the Indiana Pacers. Attentions will turn to Florida on Wednesday, when the Miami Heat will take on the Boston Celtics in a heavyweight Eastern battle. Two more giants of the East lock horns the following evening, as the Nets face the Philadelphia 76ers. The Milwaukee Bucks will take the stage on Friday night as they play host to the Jazz.

There is an abundance of football across Europe to sink your teeth into this week, starting in north London where Tottenham Hotspur will thrash it out with Brentford for a place in the Carabao Cup Final. The eyes of the footballing world will then divert to Milan and the San Siro on Wednesday, with AC Milan facing Juventus in a top of the table Serie A clash. There is Bundesliga action to watch out for on Friday as Borussia Mönchengladbach welcome table-topping Bayern Munich to Borussia-Park. Celta Vigo will do battle with Villarreal in La Liga on the same evening, all the while Wolverhampton Wanderers will be seeking safe progression to the FA Cup Fourth Round from their tie with Crystal Palace. Two more ties headline the weekend’s action from the Bundesliga, as 1. FC Union Berlin take on Wolfsburg, whilst RB Leipzig’s title credentials will be put to the test against Borussia Dortmund. The weekend’s offering of Serie A features Roma’s clash with Inter Milan and Juventus’ meeting with Sassuolo. Meanwhile, there are two heavyweight matchups from Spain’s top tier which will see Sevilla take on Real Sociedad and Granada entertain Barcelona. Football fans will be charmed by the magic of the Cup all weekend long, as the Third Round of the FA Cup plays out. There is an all-Premier League clash on Saturday which will see Arsenal take on Newcastle United, whilst Leicester City will look to overcome Championship opposition in the shape of Stoke City. QPR and Fulham will play out a west London derby at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, whilst Manchester City and Birmingham City will do battle at the Etihad. One of the stand-out ties of the weekend will see Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur travel to Rossett Park to take on Marine from the eighth tier of English football. 

The week’s cricket starts in Melbourne where the Stars will take on Hobart Hurricanes in an intriguing Big Bash League showdown. The Hurricanes will return to action on Thursday to face the Sydney Thunder. New Zealand’s 2nd Test with Pakistan and South Africa’s 2nd Test with Sri Lanka will resume on Monday and play out all week long, whilst Australia and India’s tussle in the 3rd Test will play out from Thursday. 

There are plenty of unmissable matchups in the NFL as the playoffs begin in earnest this weekend, starting with the Indianapolis Colts versus the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. Two more games are scheduled to play out on Saturday, including the LA Rams versus the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Washington Football Team. Two more stand-out showdowns top Sunday’s sporting bill, as the Chicago Bears take on the New Orleans Saints, before the Cleveland Browns mark their long-awaited return to the playoffs with a titanic matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

The PGA Tour rolls on to the island of Maui this weekend, where the Sentry Tournament of Champions will play out. 

There are two competitions to keep an eye on from the ATP World Tour in the shape of the Delray Beach Open and the Antalya Open, which both get underway on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open will get underway on Wednesday and play out throughout the week. 

Bath Rugby versus Wasps is the headline clash from Friday’s offering of Premiership Rugby action. The Pro14 Rugby matchup on the same day features Leinster Rugby and Ulster, before Connacht Rugby and Munster do battle in the same competition on Saturday.

With the world’s greatest darts players now moved out, Alexandra Palace will play host to the planet’s elite snooker players from Sunday as the Masters gets underway. 

Followers of Sumo Wrestling will be eagerly anticipating the January Tournament, which begins on Sunday. 

Please continue to show your support for the courageous athletes involved in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which continues all week. 

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

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Photos by Liverpool Football Club, Brooklyn Nets, Manchester United, Team India, Aston Villa FC, Bristol Bears, Tennessee Titans

Written and information correct on 3rd January at 9pm GMT

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