This Week in Sport: 8th – 14th February 2021

There is a little something for everyone this week, with seven different sports headlining the next seven days of action! The first tennis Major of the season will get underway on Monday as Day 1 of the Australian Open plays out in Melbourne. Cricket fans are captivated by the intriguing battle taking place in Chennai – India and England will meet on Day 5 of the opening Test on Tuesday. Attentions turn to the FA Cup Fifth Round on Wednesday, when Everton will play host to Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park.  

The Pebble Beach Pro-Am will return for its 75th anniversary this weekend – play gets underway on Thursday. It wouldn’t be a week in sport without a heavyweight NBA matchup – this week’s action is headlined by Utah Jazz’s clash with the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. We’ve reached the business-end of this year’s Prada Cup, with the Finals commencing on Saturday. The final act of this week’s play will see Ireland host France in a bruising Six Nations encounter at the Aviva Stadium.

Monday 8th February 12:00AM GMT – Tennis: Australian Open Day 1 

The first Major of 2021 on the ATP and WTA Tours will get underway on Monday in Melbourne.

Though tennis fans have had to wait a few weeks longer for this season’s curtain-raiser, the show must go on in Melbourne, and there are plenty of storylines to follow as the world’s best contest the first Major of 2021. There are few subplots more prevalent than the endeavours of Novak Djokovic, who is returning to the Australian Open as defending champion for the second straight year. Since the rebranding of this competition in 1969, only one man has won the title three years in a row, and that very same man will be looking to repeat the feat this year as Djokovic eyes an 18th Major title. The Serb will headline Monday’s action in a fascinating opening round tie with France’s Jeremy Chardy, who was dumped out at this very stage at last year’s edition. 

Whilst the Men’s draw has been monopolised by Djokovic over the past decade, the Women’s field has been far more competitive, with the last five editions being won by five different players. There will be five returning champions heading down under in search of adding to their collection this year, including seven-times winner Serena Williams, who will begin her campaign on Monday. No woman has enjoyed more success in the Open Era at this particular event, but, with her last win coming back in 2017, the American will be desperate to finally add that eighth title to her collection. Williams will get her title bid underway against Germany’s Laura Siegemund, who has experienced back-to-back Second Round exits at this competition in her two most recent outings. 

With plenty of global stars and former winners on display, make sure you keep up with all the action throughout the day!

Tuesday 9th February 4:00AM GMT – Cricket: India v England (1st Test, Day 5) 

How will the final day of the 1st Test play out? Tune in from 4:00AM GMT to find out!

India and England have been embroiled in a gripping opening Test match across the weekend, and the thrilling tie will reach its conclusion on Tuesday morning. After winning the toss and electing to bat on Day 1, England have been largely untroubled in this initial meeting, taking control from the get go with some supreme individual performances at the crease. Few batsmen the world over have been more heavily lauded than England’s Joe Root of late, and rightly so, with the Yorkshire man submitting yet another double century to extend his astonishing run of form. For large parts of his innings, the England captain was complemented expertly by opener Dom Sibley, who weathered a 286-ball onslaught in the first innings to help place his team firmly in the driving seat. 

After failing to find the answer to England’s elite batting order, India soon found themselves with an even bigger mountain to climb after losing key playmakers of their own early on at the crease. With his team very much in dire straits, keeper Rishabh Pant donned his ODI hat to put runs on the board in double quick time to salvage some hope for his side. Pant’s special innings was cut short with the Delhi Capitals man sitting on 91 runs off of just 88 balls, but his efforts may yet be in vain, should England manage to find the wickets to secure the win on Day 5. 

With a draw now the most likely result from the 1st Test, can either side tip the scales in their favour on the final day’s play?

Wednesday 10th February 8:15PM GMT – Football: Everton v Tottenham Hotspur 

A place in the FA Cup Quarterfinals is on the line at Goodison Park as two Premier League giants clash – kick-off is at 8:15PM GMT. 

With these two teams having won just two of their last eight Premier League games combined, Wednesday’s FA Cup Fifth Round tie could provide some respite from the relentless league schedule. After relying on extra-time to overcome Rotherham in the Third Round, Everton made lighter work of their Fourth Round opponents, as they defeated Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday by three goals to nil. However, the Toffees have lost their last four FA Cup meetings against Premier League rivals, with their last win over such opposition coming in the 2016 Quarterfinals against Chelsea. But Carlo Ancelotti will take encouragement from the fact that his side have already defeated Mourinho’s men this term, winning the opening day meeting in N17 back in September.   

Meanwhile, Spurs found a port in what has been a particularly tumultuous storm at the weekend, as they halted their three-game losing streak with a 2-0 triumph over West Brom. Whilst Tottenham’s league form has been underwhelming of late, their displays in the FA Cup have been far more emphatic, having won their opening two outings by an aggregate score of 9-1. However, in Marine and Wycombe, Tottenham have drawn fairly modest opponents thus far, and will surely receive a much sterner examination of their Cup credentials at Goodison on Wednesday. Having been dumped out at this stage of the competition last season courtesy of Norwich’s penalty shootout win, Spurs fans will be desperate to see a better return this time round, as they look to finally end their 13-year trophy drought. 

This particular draw could prove a good omen for the Toffees who last faced Spurs in the FA Cup in the 1995 Semifinals on their way to lifting their fifth and most recent FA Cup.

Thursday 11th February 2:00PM GMT – Golf: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

It’s the Pebble Beach Pro-Am – but not as you know it… this year’s unique edition gets underway on Thursday. 

On the 75th anniversary of this prestigious tournament, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am will take on a new format in accordance with Covid-19 restrictions. Whilst the world’s best players would usually be playing alongside their amateur partners, this year’s edition will see the 156 professionals contest the four-day competition independently, with the weekend’s action taking place on two courses instead of the traditional three. 

One custom that will remain in place this week is the appearance of the perennial Phil Mickelson, who has enjoyed immense success at Pebble Beach throughout the years. 23 years after his maiden win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, as it was known at the time, Mickelson will head to California in search of a record-breaking sixth title. The five-time major winner stands alongside Mark O’Meara as the two most successful players at this particular competition with five wins apiece. However, after a disappointing campaign last year, when he recorded just two top ten finishes, Mickelson will be desperate to rediscover his form this weekend at a course that has been very kind to him throughout his distinguished career. 

Among the chasing pack hoping to rival Mickelson this week will be none other than reigning FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson. The world number one already has two wins at Pebble Beach to his name, and will look to continue his impressive form of late this weekend in what will be his first outing of the year on mainland USA. DJ cruised to victory at the Saudi International last weekend to record his second win of the season, but can he add yet another title to his vast collection in California this week?

Friday 12th February 2:00AM GMT (Saturday 13th) – Basketball: Utah Jazz v Milwaukee Bucks 

We usher the weekend in with a showstopping NBA matchup – tip-off at Vivint Smart Home Arena comes at 2:00AM GMT on Saturday. 

The Utah Jazz have arguably been this season’s surprise package thus far, with Quin Synder’s men currently setting the pace in a highly competitive Western Conference. Much of their early-season success can be attributed to a stringent defence which has given up just under 106 points per game – the third best return in the league. Their elite defensive unit has been directed masterfully by one Rudy Gobert, who has picked up where he left off last term in this, his eighth year in Utah. Last year, the gifted Frenchman was named in the All-Star squad for the first time in his career, and he is certainly on track to repeat that feat once more this season. Gobert helped his side to their 19th win of the campaign at the weekend, as he recorded a 17th double-double of this season – will the All-Star be the difference-maker once again on Friday?

Meanwhile, Milwaukee currently find themselves in a rich vein of form, having won four on the bounce last week. Despite still being slightly off the pace set by Philadelphia atop the Eastern standings, the Bucks have certainly made up the ground in recent weeks, and they will look to close the gap further at Friday’s pivotal showdown. However, Milwaukee currently hold an indifferent record against their Western counterparts, having won three and lost three so far this term. More importantly, they have struggled against the West’s powerhouses, having lost to the current top two in the Jazz and Lakers already. In what could feasibly be an NBA Finals dress rehearsal, can the Bucks get one over on Utah?

These sides met for the first time this season last month, on which occasion it was Utah who found themselves on the right side of the 118-131 scoreline, but can Milwaukee return the favour in Salt Lake City?

Saturday 13th February 3:00AM GMT – Sailing: The Prada Cup Finals 

The Prada Cup Finals begin today – keep up with all the action from Auckland!

After more than three weeks of gruelling competition off the picturesque coasts of New Zealand, only two teams remain to battle it out for a spot in the 36th America’s Cup Match next month. The best of 13 series will be contested between Britain’s INEOS Team UK and Italy’s Luna Rossa – but which team will gain the upper hand on Saturday? 

The British representation have certainly been the team to watch at this year’s event, and comfortably booked their spot in this month’s Finals series after winning all six of their Round Robin races. Led by Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS Team UK have already conquered the Italian outfit in all three of their Round Robin meetings, and they will have full confidence of recording another series win to book their spot in the Cup Match next month. Ainslie and his elite team have the chance to make history this year, as they look to become the first British team to win the America’s Cup, the oldest international trophy in world sport.  

Looking to create their own slice of history will be Luna Rossa, who secured their place in this month’s Finals series courtesy of a Semi-final win over American Magic. The Italian outfit were convincing in that four-race match against the American’s, winning 4-0 across the two days of competition. Only two Italian teams have ever partaken in the America’s Cup Match, with the most recent appearing in the 2000 edition. Whilst the INEOS Team UK stand in their way, Luna Rossa will surely start to believe they could create sailing history in the sport’s most iconic event. 

Two races are scheduled to play out on this opening day of the Finals series – can either team sail into an early lead on Saturday? 

Sunday 14th February 3:00PM GMT – Rugby Union: Ireland v France 

Two former Six Nations champions go toe-to-toe in Week Two’s standout clash – play at Aviva Stadium gets underway at 3:00PM GMT. 

Two title candidates will cross swords on Sunday afternoon, as Ireland and France compete for another pivotal five points in Dublin. 

Before a ball was kicked in anger this year, expectations would have been high in Irish quarters that they could go all the way to lift their fourth Six Nations title this time round. However, they could hardly have hoped for a worse start to their title bid as, after blowing a half-time lead, Ireland faltered to an opening day defeat to Wales. That loss only ramps up the pressure ahead of this week’s showdown with France, with Ireland likely needing to go unbeaten in the rest of the tournament if they are to reign supreme for the first time since 2018. 

Meanwhile, France head into the second week of play as the competition’s frontrunners, after they made light work of Italy in their initial outing last week. Whilst French supporters would have felt the win was never in doubt, it was important for last year’s runners-up to secure the bonus point on offer, which they duly did, with six different players contributing to their seven-try tally. 

Historically, France have held the edge over their Irish counterparts, winning 57 of the 99 competitive meetings between the two nations. The last meeting between these sides held particular significance, as France needed to win by a 31-point margin to win last year’s Six Nations. Despite ultimately defeating the Irish in Paris, the 35-27 scoreline ensured the title went the way of England, but another success over Ireland on Sunday could give them the upper hand in this year’s edition, as France eye a first title since 2010.

Honourable mentions from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the NBA, with another jam-packed schedule unfolding throughout the week. We start in the Mile High City where the Denver Nuggets will take on the Bucks. The Bucks return to action on Wednesday night when they will face the Phoenix Suns. Before that there is a Tuesday showdown to look forward to as the Jazz lock horns with the Boston Celtics. There’s a cross-Conference affair on Thursday which pits the Portland Trail Blazers against the Philadelphia 76ers. We return to the deserts of Arizona to kick off the weekend’s schedule, with the Suns set to entertain the 76ers. Next stop, the Bay Area, as the Golden State Warriors play host to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. The week ends right where it started, as our attentions return to Denver for a showdown between the Nuggets and the LA Lakers. 

The cricket continues to come thick and fast across the planet, with the week’s action starting in Chennai on Monday where India and England will play out Day 4 of their opening Test. We then make the trip across the border to find Bangladesh taking on the West Indies, as the sides contest the 2nd Test starting on Thursday. Meanwhile, Pakistan will do battle with South Africa in the 1st T20I on Thursday, before playing out the 2nd and 3rd T20Is on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Attentions turn back to Chennai at the weekend as the opening two days of the 2nd Test between India and England are thrashed out.  

Football fans will be clearing their schedules ahead of another frantic week of English football. The festivities will begin in West Yorkshire on Monday where Leeds United will take on Crystal Palace in the final Premier League clash of gameweek 23. The FA Cup Fifth Round then takes centre stage on Tuesday; Man United’s meeting with West Ham headlines the action. There are two more all-Premier League clashes to watch out for on Wednesday and Thursday, as Leicester City take on Brighton before Wolves welcome Southampton to Molineux. Our focus returns to Premier League matters at the weekend, starting with Saturday’s meeting between Leicester City and Liverpool. Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will play out the dress rehearsal to April’s Carabao Cup Final on Saturday, when the two sides meet at the Etihad. Super Sunday’s standout clash pits Arsenal against Leeds United. Two Serie A heavyweights lock horns on Saturday as Napoli play host to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg will look to extend their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to seven games on Sunday as they welcome Borussia Mönchengladbach to Volkswagen Arena. La Liga’s race for Champions League football will heat up on Sunday when Villarreal entertain Real Betis. 

Two Premiership Rugby ties headline the weekend’s schedule, as Exeter Chiefs take on London Irish and Northampton Saints face Newcastle Falcons. Meanwhile, the second week of action from the Six Nations will see England meet Italy and Scotland face off with Wales. 

Another night of bruising MMA action lies in wait at UFC 258, with Kamaru Usman headlining the show as he enters the octagon with Gilbert Burns.

Fans of combat sports will be treated to a boxing showcase on Saturday night, when Josh Warrington will go toe-to-toe with Mauricio Lara at Wembley Arena. 

The highly anticipated Alpine World Ski Championships begin on Monday and will continue all through the week. 

There is plenty more action from the NHL to digest this week, starting with Tuesday’s offering from the capital as the Washington Capitals meet the Philadelphia Flyers. Attentions will be directed north of the border the following day as the Montreal Canadiens do battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs, before the two sides return to the ice on Saturday. Another electrifying grudge match is scheduled for Thursday when the Florida Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, before they do it all over again on Saturday.  The Vegas Golden Knights top Sunday’s bill as they entertain the Colorado Avalanche at the T-Mobile Arena. 

The World Athletics Indoor Tour rolls on to Liévin this week where the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais will play out on Tuesday, before there is more athletics action in Boston for Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. 

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

Fixture

Photos by Australian Open, England Cricket, Everton, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Utah Jazz, 36th America’s Cup, France Rugby

Written and information correct on 7th February at 9pm GMT

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