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

From derby days to knockout nights – this week in sport promises wall to wall action! The WTA World Tour takes to Dubai to kick off proceedings on Monday, as Day 2 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is contested. Borussia Dortmund meet Sevilla in the Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday, but which side will progress to the last eight? The highly anticipated 36th America’s Cup Match will finally begin on Wednesday as Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa face off in races one and two. 

The PGA Tour’s most lucrative event begins on Thursday in the shape of the PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. After producing a memorable Test series, India and England will meet again on Friday, this time to contest the 1st T20I. France will look to keep their Six Nations Championship dreams alive when they take on England at Twickenham on Saturday. The curtain will fall on this blockbuster week of action in north London on Sunday, but not before old rivalries are restored as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur meet at the Emirates.

Monday 8th March 8:00AM GMT – Tennis: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Day 2 

The brightest stars on the WTA World Tour congregate in Dubai this week to contest the latest electrifying event – play begins on Day 2 at 8:00AM GMT. 

After Day 1’s schedule on Sunday featured a mix of qualifiers and Round of 64 matches, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships begin in earnest on Monday, when plenty of big names will be seeking safe passage to the next round at Dubai Tennis Stadium. 

One such superstar set to be in action is world number five Elina Svitolina, who will take to the court with Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Svitolina will head into just about every matchup this week as firm favourite, with the Ukrainian the only two-time winner to feature in this year’s field. However, Svitolina is currently on a mission to rediscover her very best form after making a disappointing exit in the first event of the Middle East swing last week, when she was dumped out of the Qatar Open by Victoria Azarenka at the Quarter-final stage. The world number five will be desperate for a better return from this week’s festivities, but must first overcome a tricky looking hurdle in the shape of Kuznetsova in the Round of 32. 

Elsewhere, three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber will also be in action on Monday as the amiable German gets her title bid underway in a Round of 32 matchup with France’s Caroline Garcia. Much like her Ukrainian counterpart, Kerber has desperately struggled for form of late, with her last Final appearance on Tour coming at the Nature Valley International back in June 2019. However, the former world number one remains capable of beating the very best on her day and in the absence of the Tour’s real heavy-hitters, Kerber will certainly fancy her chances at manufacturing a deep run in Dubai this week! 

Tuesday 9th March 8:00PM GMT – Football: Borussia Dortmund v Sevilla 

The Champions League knockout phase continues this week with another heavyweight matchup – kick-off in west Germany comes at 8:00PM GMT.  

Two teams steeped in European football history lock horns at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night, when a place in the Champions League Quarterfinals will be up for grabs. The hosts, Borussia Dortmund, take a slender 3-2 lead into Tuesday’s second leg, as they look to avoid elimination at this stage for the third season in a row. Since their memorable run to the Final in the 2012/13 season, Dortmund have flattered to deceive on Europe’s grandest stage, failing to progress past the Quarter-final stage in any of their subsequent six attempts. However, there will be a growing confidence within the Dortmund camp that their lengthy European drought could soon be over, and much of that confidence is founded in the form of one Erling Haaland, who has been front and centre in this year’s Champions League spectacle. The Norwegian talisman currently tops the UCL goal-scoring charts, having notched eight in just five appearances this term. Will Haaland’s incredible form in front of goal continue on Tuesday? 

Top of Sevilla’s to-do list will be preventing the Norwegian from doing just that, after the Spanish outfit were breached twice by Haaland in what was an action-packed first leg. Masters of the Europa League, Sevilla are a little more inexperienced when it comes to dining at Europe’s top table. In fact, since the competition’s rebranding in the 90s, Sevilla have progressed past the Round of 16 on just one occasion, achieving the feat in 2018. Furthermore, since the first leg defeat to Dortmund, the La Liga giants have struggled for form domestically, and currently find themselves on a three-game losing streak in all competitions, with the most recent loss coming against relegation candidates Elche at the weekend. Having dominated the Europa League in recent times, Sevilla will be desperate to now stamp their mark on Europe’s elite club competition, but can they overcome Dortmund to keep their title hopes alive? 

Wednesday 10th March 3:12AM GMT – Sailing: 36th America’s Cup Match

The first races of the America’s Cup between Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Luna Rossa get underway in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand on Wednesday 10th March 2021 at 3:12AM GMT.

After Auckland was thrown into lockdown last week, competitors and fans have waited with bated breath for a decision as to when the first races of the 36th America’s Cup Match could go ahead. Thankfully, just four days later than originally scheduled, the race organisers have given the green light for Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa to take to the seas and contest the oldest prize in international sport. 

Luna Rossa earned their title as official challenger for the 36th America’s Cup in emphatic fashion as they beat INEOS Team UK in the Prada Cup Finals, dropping just one race in the best-of-13 series. This year’s America’s Cup Match will feature Italian representation for the first time since 2000, when Luna Rossa were handed a 5-0 defeat by the very same Team New Zealand - but can they exact revenge 21 years on? Whilst the hosts will be firm favourites, Luna Rossa completely demolished Ben Ainslie’s Team UK and, with a wealth of sailing experience among the crew, the Italian outfit will fancy their chances of hoisting the Auld Cup for the very first time this year. In skippers Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni, Luna Rossa possess two of the biggest names in the sport, with the former a two-time sailing world champion with further experience of winning this particular race, having achieved the feat in 2010 and 2013 with Team USA. 

Meanwhile, race favourites Emirates Team New Zealand aren’t short of experienced heads themselves amongst a star-studded crew, which is led by Olympic champion Peter Burling who will be looking to add a second consecutive America’s Cup to his eminent resume. In Team New Zealand’s first America’s Cup win since 2000 last year, Burling became the youngest helmsman to win this particular competition, and he will be the man hoping to lead this team to back-to-back victories for the first time. 

Thursday 11th March 2.00PM GMT – Golf: THE PLAYERS Championship 

The PGA Tour takes us to the hallowed TPC Sawgrass this week where the prestigious Players Championship will be contested from Thursday. 

This time last year, the Players Championship was cut short after just one round of play as the pandemic started wreaking havoc with sporting schedules across the globe. 12 months on the outlook is far brighter, as the greatest talents in the game are set to return to Florida’s TPC Sawgrass to pick up where they left off. With a hefty $15 million purse on offer this weekend, the Players Championship remains the most lucrative event on the PGA Tour, with a cool $2.7 million apportioned to the eventual winner. Often referred to within golfing circles at the ‘fifth major’, the Players is repeatedly one of the most competitive events on Tour, with the average margin of victory since 2007 being no greater than 1.3 strokes. Furthermore, only six men have ever won this tournament multiple times and, with the unfortunate absence of Tiger Woods, there will be no two-time winners in the field this time round, but can a former winner join the exclusive club this week?

One man who has become accustomed to picking up winner’s checks on Tour throughout his sparkling career is Rory McIlroy who, after winning the title in 2019, will enter the 2021 edition as defending champion. The Northern Irishman has secured 18 tournament wins in total on the PGA Tour but, with the last of those coming back in 2019, fans of the four-time major champion are desperate to see him return to the top of the pile once again. McIlroy’s struggle for consistency has been epitomised in his recent outings, with the former world number one having recorded just one top 10 finish from his last five appearances on Tour. But as he returns to the renowned TPC Sawgrass where he has reigned supreme before, will the stars align for McIlroy this weekend to finally end the drought?

With 49 of the world’s top 50 players set to compete at TPC Sawgrass this weekend, you won’t want to miss a minute of the four-day festival of golf!

Friday 12th March 1:30PM GMT – Cricket: India v England 1st T20I

Two of the best T20 teams in the world go toe-to-toe in the 1st T20I in Ahmedabad. 

England’s cricketers will be left reeling after they were humbled in the recent four-match Test series, ultimately losing out 3-1 to an utterly dominant India side. However, there’ll be no time to lick their wounds as the two great nations of the sport are set to do battle once more this week, this time in the T20 format as the five-match series gets underway.

For England, it was always going to be an uphill battle to claim victory against one of the very best Test teams on the planet. However, many fans will be expecting a much fairer fight as attentions turn to the shorter 20-over format. Currently, England are ranked the world’s best T20 side, having gone unbeaten in their last eight series’ and, with Eoin Morgan expected to shuffle the pack slightly, there is much excitement surrounding this England squad. With the 2021 T20 World Cup fast approaching, which players will stake their claim for a seat on the plane in October?

In this showcase event, the world’s top two ranked T20 batsmen will go head-to-head as England’s Dawid Malan seeks to one up India’s KL Rahul once again. Whilst Malan was somewhat of a late bloomer on the international scene, he now ranks the most effective batsman in T20 cricket and is averaging just over 53 runs per innings after 19 appearances for England. In his last appearance back in December, Malan went for 99 not out in a convincing 9-wicket win over South Africa, but can he rediscover that form in Ahmedabad? Meanwhile, Rahul can boast the far greater experience of the two, having made over twice as many T20I appearances than his English counterpart. Furthermore, Rahul played a crucial part in handing England their last T20 series defeat back in 2018, when he recorded an unbeaten century in the first game of the three-match series. Will it be Malan or Rahul who has the last laugh in Ahmedabad this time around? 

Saturday 13th March 4:45PM GMT – Rugby Union: England v France 

England welcome France to Twickenham Stadium for a pivotal Six Nations showdown – kick-off is at 4:45PM GMT. 

Week 4 at the Six Nations is headlined by a mouth-watering clash in prospect as Fabien Galthié marches his France side to Twickenham where they will meet reigning champions England, who have flattered to deceive in defence of their title this year. After the initial three matchups, England have just one win to their name and find themselves all but out of the title race with just two games left to play. Though it has been a campaign to forget for the English thus far, Eddie Jones will be desperate to restore some pride within his camp with a long overdue win on Saturday. On their title drive in this competition last year, England’s only loss came at the hands of France in Saint-Denis, but Les Bleus have enjoyed far less success when battling on English shores, having last won at Twickenham back in 2007. 

Despite their poor run of form at the home of England Rugby, France will be fully confident of picking up their first Twickenham win in 14 years this weekend after some impressive displays of late. Though their Six Nations campaign has been heavily disrupted by a Covid outbreak within the camp, France remain well in the hunt to lift the Six Nations Championship. Having already overcome Italy and Ireland, France currently sit second in the standings behind another unbeaten side in the shape of Wales, who have played one game more than Les Bleus. Over a decade has passed since this great nation of the sport reigned supreme at one of its preeminent competitions, but will 2021 be the year France finally end the drought? 

Sunday 14th March 4:30PM GMT – Football: Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur 

One of the Premier League’s fiercest rivalries is reignited in north London this weekend – the fireworks begin at 4:30PM GMT. 

Just over four miles separate these two great London clubs, but Tottenham currently sit as many as seven points clear of the Gunners in the Premier League standings after a tumultuous season in the red half of the city. Last time out, Mikel Arteta’s side could only muster a 1-1 draw against a resolute Burnley side, leaving their position in the top half of the table very much in the balance heading into the business end of the campaign. With the north London derby, one of the biggest fixtures in the club’s calendar, on the horizon, Arteta won’t be thankful for the midweek trip to Piraeus, where his side will thrash out a Europa League tie with Olympiacos just three days prior to Tottenham’s visit. Arsenal have won just two of their eight weekend games to take place after midweek European exploits this term – will that poor record be compounded at the weekend? 

There has been much talk about a power shift in north London in recent years from Arsenal’s unequivocal dominance in the early noughties to Tottenham’s resurgence trail blazed by Messrs. Pochettino and Mourinho. Whilst the honours lists would very much argue the contrary, the form books prop up this theory, with Arsenal winning just two of the last 12 north London derbies, as Spurs remain unbeaten in the last five. However, it’s been a drastically different story when playing at the Emirates for Spurs, who haven’t won a league match on Arsenal’s turf since 2010, failing to win any of the subsequent nine meetings there. One man who seemingly never fails to deliver on derby day is Spurs talisman Harry Kane, who has netted 11 goals in 12 Premier League outings against the Gunners. Will Kane help his side to a first ever Premier League double over Arsenal on Sunday? 

Other sporting highlights from around the globe 

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the football as another busy week in Europe’s biggest club competitions lies in wait. We begin with a Premier League double header on Monday, as Chelsea entertain Everton before West Ham United take on Leeds United. The latter return to action at the weekend as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds do battle with Chelsea at Elland Road. Inter Milan’s quest for a first Serie A title in 11 years continues on Monday when they welcome Atalanta to San Siro. Juventus have plenty of work left to do in the Champions League Round of 16 – they’ll look to overturn a 2-1 deficit to Porto when the two sides meet on Tuesday night in Turin. PSG meet Sparta Prague in the Women’s Champions League on Tuesday night in the Round of 16 first leg. Two more games in the same competition will see Atlético de Madrid Femenino play host to Chelsea, and Brondby take on defending champions Lyon. Meanwhile, PSG’s male representation will look to finish the job against Barcelona on Wednesday evening, as they take a 4-1 first leg lead back to Parc des Princes. Liverpool will also look to book their spot in the last eight as they take on Leipzig in Budapest. The Europa League Round of 16 gets underway on Thursday, with two standout fixtures headlining the bill. European royalty will meet at Old Trafford as Manchester United take on AC Milan, whilst Ajax do battle with BSC Young Boys in Amsterdam. Man United will turn their attentions to Premier League matters at the weekend when the race for top four heats up as they welcome fellow contenders West Ham United to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Title-chasing PSV Eindhoven will take to the field with Feyenoord on Sunday, when three more crucial Eredivisie points will be up for grabs. Sunderland and Tranmere Rovers have a Wembley date booked this weekend, with the two sides set to contest the EFL Trophy Final at the home of football on Sunday. Bristol City and Chelsea’s Women will be preparing for a Final of their own this weekend – they will meet in the FA Women’s League Cup Final at Vicarage Road on Sunday afternoon. RB Leipzig will look to keep their Bundesliga title dreams alive as they prepare to host Eintracht Frankfurt this weekend. A busy week for AC Milan ends at their San Siro home, where they will take on Napoli on Sunday. Two La Liga sides with European aspirations lock horns in Seville at the weekend with Sevilla playing host to Real Betis.

A busy week of action from the Paris - Nice race on the UCI World Tour should be a treat for cycling fans, whilst the Tirreno - Adriatico race gets underway from Wednesday.

Followers of the NBA will be marking their card ahead of another hectic week of action in the States. Wednesday’s bill is headlined by a Texas grudge match as the Dallas Mavericks meet the San Antonio Spurs at the American Airlines Center. There’s a trifecta of unmissable NBA matchups on Thursday as: the Milwaukee Bucks face the New York Knicks, the LA Clippers take on the Golden State Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets do battle with the Boston Celtics. The Mavericks return to the court at the weekend when they will face off with the Denver Nuggets in Salt Lake City. Steph Curry and the Warriors will welcome the high-flying Utah Jazz to the Chase Center on Sunday, whilst the Philadelphia 76ers thrash it out with the Spurs in a cross-Conference clash on the same day.  

There are three unmissable events to follow on the ATP Tour this week in the shape of the Chile Open, Open 13 Provence and Qatar Open, all of which begin on Monday and play out throughout the week. 

A busy week of NHL action gets underway in Canada on Tuesday night, when the Toronto Maple Leafs kick-off their three-game mini-series with the Winnipeg Jets – the sides meet again on Thursday and Saturday. The St. Louis Blues are preparing for a double header with the Vegas Golden Knights this weekend – the sides meet on Friday and Saturday. 

There will be plenty of cricket filling our screens this week, starting on Tuesday when India and South Africa’s Women will battle it out in the 2nd ODI, before meeting twice more in the 3rd and 4th matchups on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Meanwhile, West Indies and Sri Lanka will be in ODI action all week long – they will contest the 1st2nd and 3rd ODIs on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. India and England are gearing up for another busy week of action – the 2nd T20I plays out in Ahmedabad on Sunday. 

The European Tour takes us to Doha this weekend, where all the action from the highly anticipated Qatar Masters will unfold. 

The eyes of the Rugby League world will be fixed on AAMI Park in Melbourne on Thursday morning, as Storm entertain Rabbitohs in a pivotal NRL showdown as the new season starts in Australia. 

Meanwhile, there is another busy weekend of Rugby Union action to follow, starting with a Premiership matchup on Friday night which sees the Bristol Bears take on Wasps at Ashton Gate. Two more Premiership fixtures headline the weekend’s schedule, as the Exeter Chiefs take on Harlequins and Sale Sharks travel to face Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. This week’s Pro14 Rugby offering begins at Thomond Park in Limerick, where Munster Rugby will welcome Scarlets on Friday. Two key Super Rugby Aotearoa fixtures see Crusaders face Chiefs on Saturday and Blues take on Highlanders on Sunday, whilst Brumbies go up against Reds in a crucial Super Rugby AU clash on Saturday morning. On the international stage, Scotland meet Ireland in an intriguing Six Nations matchup at Murrayfield. 

There is action from the 36th America’s Cup Match every day across the weekend, with six races set to play out from Friday to Sunday. 

Meanwhile Sunday is a red-letter day in the world of Sumo Wrestling, as Day 1 of the March Tournament unfolds in Osaka. 

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

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Photos by DDF Tennis Championships, Borussia Dortmund, 36th America’s Cup, THE PLAYERS, Eoin Morgan, France Rugby, Tottenham Hotspur

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

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