Swansea City v Manchester Utd 30th August 2015

Swansea City v Manchester Utd 30th August 2015

Swansea set to continue fine start against Manchester Utd

Manchester United fans can console themselves with the fact they have taken seven points from their opening three games, a fine improvement on last year’s miserable start.

However, Louis van Gaal’s side have started off much the way they did back then – struggling for balance in the team and goals.

Lacklustre starts from Arsenal and Chelsea, combined with the fact they have notched three consecutive clean sheets, have deflected much of the attention away from their inadequacies.

But with tricky ties ahead against Swansea on Sunday, then Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal, there will be nowhere to hide should they fail to improve.

Swansea followed up an impressive opening day 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge with an easy win over Newcastle. They brushed aside York City 3-0 in the League Cup on Tuesday night and look in fine shape ahead of …

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Tottenham Hotspur v Everton 29th August 2015

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton 29th August 2015

Spurs’ Kane will give visiting Toffees a beating

Both Tottenham and Everton are involved in protracted transfer battles ahead of their showdown at White Hart Lane tomorrow.

On the evidence so far winless Spurs are in need of another striker to support Harry Kane but it looks like West Brom’s Saido Berahino will be staying in the Midlands.

While that player’s club seem inclined to let the hitman move on, Everton’s hierarchy are desperate to keep young defender John Stones from Chelsea’s clutches. That Stones has now handed in a transfer request means Roberto Martinez’s preparation for this game will be severely interrupted and Spurs must fancy their chances of making it four wins on the bounce over these rivals.

Everton thrashed an out-of-sorts Southampton for a first win of the season a fortnight ago but were ultimately put in their place at home to title favourites Manchester City last Sunday.…

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Newcastle Utd v Arsenal 29th August 2015

Newcastle Utd v Arsenal 29th August 2015

Arsenal can grind out victory up at Newcastle

Different season, similar story for Arsenal fans. A slow start already sees Arsene Wenger’s men five points off pacesetters Manchester City at the top of the Premier League after only three games, but the team have an excellent chance to claim their second victory of the campaign up at Newcastle tomorrow.

Amazingly, Newcastle haven’t beaten Arsenal at home since December 2005 and have lost the last seven meetings against the Gunners, conceding 20 goals. In fact, the Magpies have only won three of the last 28 league matches versus the north Londoners and each time their opponents finished the game with 10-men.

There was optimism that Newcastle could improve significantly on a terrible last season with Steve McLaren at the helm and big money signings made. But like 2014/15, the team are winless after three games and have won just one of …

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2015 Challenge Cup Final

2015 Challenge Cup Final

Rhinos face Rovers in what could be a Wembley walkover

On Saturday afternoon, Wembley will be opening its roof for this year’s Challenge Cup final between Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos.

With the Capital’s top team, London Broncos, now playing in rugby league’s second tier, trips to London are a rarity for the sport’s big clubs. But, for Leeds, this is their fifth Challenge Cup final (at Wembley) in six years.

Compare that with their opponents Hull KR who are competing in their first cup final for 35 years and it might start to put the size of their task into perspective. Leeds, in that same period of time, have played in 10 finals.

Any chance of a close match between these two looked to be quashed when KR’s two key halves, Terry Campese and the fiery Albert Kelly, were ruled out through injury. However, fast-recovering Kelly could still take …

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Club Brugge v Manchester Utd Champions League Qualifier, 2nd Leg – 26th August 2015

Club Brugge v Manchester Utd Champions League Qualifier

United look too strong and could oust Brugge with a battering

On Wednesday, Manchester United visit Club Brugge for the second leg of their Champions League qualifier and will be expecting to progress to the group stages with relative ease.

United carry a two goal advantage to the Jan Breydel Stadium after beating the Belgians 3-1 at Old Trafford and look all but home and dry. Ok, it’s not a huge margin and Brugge do have a valuable away goal, but the Belgian side look no match for the Red Devils.

Class shined through in the first leg as Memphis Depay mesmerised the Brugge defence to score two beautifully executed goals and gift Marouane Fellaini a last minute header. The English side dominated play with 69% of the possession and looked dangerous firing off a total of seven shots to the Belgian’s one.

Louis van Gaal’s side didn’t win solely …

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Arsenal v Liverpool 24th August 2015

Arsenal v Liverpool 24th August 2015

Gunners won’t keep powder dry against Reds in soggy Emirates clash

I’m not a big one for looking too closely at historical records when sizing up football teams, but Liverpool’s record at Arsenal has been atrocious of late and, despite their unblemished start to the 2015/16 Premier League season, I can’t see the Reds winning tonight. 

Some might attribute Liverpool’s solitary win at Arsenal in the past 15 years as nothing more than normal evidence of the rising and falling nature of two club’s fortunes, but Liverpool have had some cracking sides in the past decade and half and should have a much better record than that.

Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger saw his side suffer a shocking start to their campaign, losing at home to London rivals West Ham, but they were much improved when dispatching of Crystal Palace at their notoriously boisterous ground, Selhurst Park.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers …

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WBA v Chelsea 23rd August 2015

WBA v Chelsea 23rd August 2015

Doggish Diego Costa can finally fetch three points for Chelsea

A bottom of the table clash between West Brom and Chelsea at The Hawthorns looks an appetising affair on Sunday with both sides desperate to get three points on the board.

Not many would have predicted that champions Chelsea would be wallowing in 16th after their first two games, while I’m sure Tony Pulis has higher aspirations than his side’s current standing of 18th.

Jose Mourinho hasn’t made too many friends over the last fortnight. Having been denied a handshake from Arsene Wenger, hit out at his physio staff, and substituted his captain against title contenders Man City, it’s been a far from ideal start to the season.

However, one man he will get a warm welcome from is West Brom boss Pulis. Mourinho hailed the Baggies manager as the perfect boss for any English side.

Sweet …

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Manchester Utd v Newcastle Utd 22nd August 2015

Manchester Utd v Newcastle Utd

Red Devils to swat Magpies aside

Manchester United, transfer sagas aside, have had a fine start to the season. Two wins from two in the league, and a comfortable victory against Club Brugge in the Champions League, will be exactly the return manager Louis van Gaal would have wanted. 

Yes, the wins in the Premier League have left a little bit to be desired in terms of goals and attacking play, but with new players in key positions the team was always going to take time to gel.

The mid-week win against their Belgian opponents showed United back to their attacking best at times and their opponents on Saturday lunchtime, Newcastle United, will be full of trepidation about going to Old Trafford.

Memphis Depay bagged a brace against Club Brugge and many could be forgiven for buying the on-form Dutchman’s goal minutes, but I think Wayne Rooney’s time has come.…

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Everton v Manchester City 23rd August 2015

Everton v Manchester City 23rd August 2015

Toffees to keep it tight and starve Sergio and Co. of goals

Sunday’s second instalment of Premier League football sees league leaders Manchester City travel to the blue half of Merseyside to face an unbeaten Everton.

Although the Toffees are yet to face defeat, they were subject to an early scare on the opening day of the season when going behind twice to newly promoted Watford.

Roberto Martinez’s men saved a point on the day and then improved drastically to trounce Southampton away from home by a tidy and impressive 3-0 margin.

A repeat of that scoreline against City is unlikely but, looking at the history books, Goodison Park hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Sky Blues. They’ve only recorded two victories in the last 17 ties on Everton’s patch and, despite having already played champions Chelsea, this looks their toughest game of the young season yet.

Everton …

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England v Australia Ashes 2015 5th Test preview

England v Australia Ashes 2015 5th Test preview

Determined England to finish the Aussies off in style

England cricket fans have been on a roller-coaster journey since early July and, after their side secured the Ashes in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge; home support will be in full voice to try and help them achieve a historic 4-1 series triumph.

Alastair Cook leads his troops out at the Oval for the final Test tomorrow knowing that his side have completed the main objective of regaining the urn. However, this hungry side will be desperate to bang the final nail into the Aussie coffin.

Stuart Broad, who led England’s bowling attack in the absence of Jimmy Anderson at Trent Bridge, picked up record-breaking figures of 8-15 as the hosts ripped into the Aussies. They were bowled out for a disastrous 60 runs, which summed up both England’s ability to play the conditions better, as well as Australia’s distinct …

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Manchester Utd v Club Brugge, Champions League Qualifier, 1st Leg – 18th August 2015

United to secure healthy first leg lead against injury-hit Brugge

United to secure healthy first leg lead against injury-hit Brugge

In both European and Domestic competitions Club Brugge are struggling on the road, and a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in tonight’s Champions League third round qualifier looks their stiffest task yet.

The Belgian side have lost three of their last four games away from home and they arrive at a ground that has played host to only one home defeat in six Champions League ties.

United have got off to a very professional start in the Premier League, with back to back one-nil victories and, under Louis van Gaal, they are expected to protect that record in Europe too.

The United manager’s record in Europe is strong, having won 58% of all Champions League contests, and his medal haul is full of European honours; Super Cup (2), UEFA Cup and Champions League.

The Dutchman’s opponents have …

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Liverpool v Bournemouth 17th August 2015

Liverpool v Bournemouth

Liverpool to top the Cherries

Bournemouth embark on their first away trip in the Premier League as the Cherries arrive at Anfield to take on Liverpool in Monday night’s fixture. 

While the faithful supporters of the south coast side will harbour hope of a another exciting season after winning the Championship last season, survival in the top league will be the first and only order of business for boss Eddie Howe.

The task before them was laid bare in their home opener last weekend. After spending long periods of the game on top and with chance after chance unconverted, the Cherries lost 1-0 to a Rudy Gestede inspired Aston Villa side.

Howe will know that to get anything from this game, his side will need to take their chances. Last season Bournemouth had the best away record in the Championship, but the Premier League is a different kettle of fish …

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Manchester City v Chelsea 16th August 2015

Mourinho to mastermind another masterpiece at the Etihad

Mourinho to mastermind another masterpiece at the Etihad

When the Premier League fixtures were announced many will have circled Sunday’s fixture between title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in bold red ink. 

The match is an opportunity for City to pile on early season pressure on holders Chelsea, but caution should be taken before reading too much into the result.

Chelsea went to Manchester United early in the 2013/14 season and came away with a point that was regarded as proof United could win the league under David Moyes.

The Blues went on to finish 18 points ahead of the Red Devils and Moyes was shown the door.

Despite this summer’s spending spree undertaken by Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham, Manchester City are most people’s choice to really challenge Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea this season – if not reclaim the title outright.

City were mightily impressive in their 3-0 victory …

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Aston Villa v Manchester Utd 14th August 2015

Aston Villa v Manchester Utd

Bank on Friday night fireworks, but don’t expect a Villa victory

The much touted ‘39th’ game has yet to garner enough support to be implemented, but Friday night Premier League football will become a mainstay of England’s top division from next season. 

It marks a remarkable evolution for the sport, as not too long ago football was played only at 3pm on a Saturday and TV viewers would be able to watch a solitary match – if they were lucky.

The lucrative TV contracts that have pumped untold millions into English football means the TV executives now call the shots, rightly or wrongly. In just a few short decades, we will have moved from two hours of football per week, to Premier League football available to watch four days a week.

Although Friday night’s fixture between Manchester United and their perennial whipping boys Aston Villa is the first of its kind for …

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Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors Preview – 14th August 2015

Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors Preview

Rhinos’ attacking backline look set for a rampage in the Headingly sun

Things are warming up ahead of Friday night’s Super 8’s clash between and Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors, and come 8pm at Headingly the action will be hot both on and off the pitch.

These two giants of the game have 29 league titles between them and are this year’s two best sides.

Leeds have just demolished Warrington, dispatched Saints in the cup and have winger Tom Briscoe back. They are the best team in the competition, with by far the best set of backs.

Most of Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Zak Hardaker and Briscoe would go well in the NRL Down Under and you can’t say the same for most Super League backs.

As far as the Rhinos’ pack is concerned, Jamie Peacock is playing like a man desperate to finish his illustrious career with …

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PGA Championship 2015 Preview

PGA Championship 2015 Preview

PGA Championship 2015 Preview

Anyone’s game but Lowry’s at the PGA Championship 

When observers predicted that an Irish golfer would be entering this week’s PGA Championship in a rich vein of form and off the back of a stunning tournament win, the name Shane Lowry was not the moniker on most lips.

Rory McIlroy’s long-time friend and playing partner emerged from the shadow of his compatriot last week, taking the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to claim his first ever PGA tour title. It was an impressive performance, holding off Bubba Watson and Justin Rose to become the first non-PGA Tour member to win a WGC event since Martin Kaymer in 2011. But can he back that up this weekend at Whistling Straits?

The wise money would be no. He can be bought on the Leaderboard Index at 6, but while Lowry has enjoyed his moment in the sun and is now in the …

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WBA v Manchester City 10th August 2015

WBA v Manchester City 10th August 2015

West Brom to remind City that there’s no easy game in the Premier League

The Hawthorns is the first destination for Manchester City’s star studded squad in the 2015/16 Premier League as they take on West Brom in the season’s opening Monday night matchup. 

A number of critics have been quick to play down the certainty of Man City’s chances this season, arguing that their two-horse race with champions Chelsea is now a battle between four or five, while West Brom are expected by many to build marginally on last season’s 13th place finish.

The Baggies are out to break a run of seven consecutive defeats to the Sky Blues which stretches back to a time, April 2012, when Manuel Pellegrini was managing Malaga and Tony Pulis calling the shots at Stoke.

With Pulis at the helm, West Brom fans can be confident of staying up. The manager has …

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Arsenal v West Ham 9th August 2015

Arsenal v West Ham 9th August 2015

Gunners should shoot down slow starting Hammers in season opener

Sunday’s all London affair between Arsenal and West Ham is one of the highlights of the weekend’s opening Premier League games. 

While plenty of pundits have expressed Arsenal’s title chances in glowing terms of late, they head in to their first fixture with a slightly depleted side.

The Gunners’ star player Alexis Sanchez isn’t quite match fit after a well-earned break following international duties and the injury prone Jack Wiltshire is back on the physio table as well. Neither Danny Welbeck nor Tomas Rosicky are available for this Sunday’s game either.

However, in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, The Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, Arsenal look to have enough strength in depth to spare Wenger of a headache.

Hammer’s boss Slavan Bilic’s main problem is in attack with his top striker Enner Valencia still restricted to walking on crutches.

While the Croatian …

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Chelsea v Swansea City 8th August 2015

Chelsea v Swansea City

Swans won’t be able to keep champions Chelsea penned in

SW6 is the first stop for Swansea fans as they travel to Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season to watch their side take on Chelsea.

Last season’s champions finished 31 points clear of their visitors in the 2014/15 campaign and have not lost to Swansea in the League since 1981.

However, with the Blues misfiring in pre-season, Gary Monk will know there’s a chance of ending that drought – the Swans pulled a similar trick to open last season by beating heavily favoured Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Mourinho’s men looked undercooked when losing 1-0 against Arsenal in the Community Shield last Sunday. Loic Remy was a cropper to the offside rule on too many occasions, Willian looked off the pace and when Kurt Zouma was thrown on to play down the left wing you could feel …

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Manchester Utd v Tottenham Hotspur 8th August 2015

Tottenham can defy expectations to share the points at Old Trafford

Tottenham can defy expectations to share the points at Old Trafford

To say Tottenham had a rough decade against the all-conquering Manchester United sides put out by Sir Alex Ferguson in the noughties would be an understatement. 

Spurs went an incredible 26 straight matches – from May 2001 to September 2012 – without taking all three points.

Much has changed in the six games these two premier league stalwarts have played since then, and Spurs surprisingly have a winning record against the Red Devils – P6 W2 D3 L1.

Both of those wins came at Old Trafford, but few are giving the North London side much chance of repeating the trick in the opening game of the 2015/16 Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal has spent a good chunk of change on his side this summer but still hasn’t addressed the back four, which is …

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England v Australia Ashes 2015 4th Test preview

England v Australia Ashes 2015 4th Test preview

Jimmy Anderson absence to play a major role in Australia levelling the series

An England victory in the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge would give the host’s an unassailable 3-1 lead, but they’ll have to do it without star bowler Jimmy Anderson.

For Alastair Cook and Co. to regain the Ashes they will have to get past an Australian side who will be revved up after their embarrassing performance last time out.

Aussie supporters won’t need reminding that the third Test at Edgbaston was wrapped up in just two and a half days, with only Chris Rodgers’ score of 52 offering any sort of batting resistance in the first innings.

Although the wicket was prepared in a way to understandably assist the English swing bowlers, the Aussies fell cheaply. Jimmy Anderson claimed impressive figures of 6-47 on the first day to help skittle the visitors out for just …

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Chelsea v Fiorentina- Pre-Season Friendly – 5th August 2015

Chelsea search for goals in final warmup against Fiorentina

It goes without saying that Sunday’s Community Shield wasn’t the day out that Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea side had in mind.

After conceding an early goal to Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Chelsea huffed and puffed but couldn’t find the equaliser – leaving new signing Petr Cech to celebrate his first clean sheet for his new club.

Shorn of the services of the rested Diego Costa, Mourinho’s men looked alarmingly impotent at times and have supporters worried that goals may be at a premium this season.

Arsenal supporters will joyous to see their team winning trophies on a regular basis, but should be wary of overconfidence – David Moyes lifted the Community Shield with Manchester United and we all remember how that turned out.

A London derby in the shape of West Ham United awaits Arsenal to open the season on Sunday, …

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Leeds Rhinos v St Helens Preview – 31 July 2015

Kevin Sinfield

Captain Kevin can keep his Rhino’s calm and triumph over Saints

Befitting of the final, tonight’s Challenge Cup semi between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens is the marquee matchup of the year and probably the tip for the Grand Final in October as well.

The Rhinos, who sit top of the Super League after all 23 rounds, charge into tonight’s game after a rampaging win over Catalan Dragons and look to be hitting top form at the business end of the season.

They’re playing expansive, creative rugby league, scoring tries for fun and have the most potent attacking arsenal of any side in the UK.

The quartet of Kallum Watkins, Zac Hardaker, Joel Moon and Ryan Hall is as good as it gets and Saints are in for a rough ride in the wider channels if Leeds are able to play the game they’d like to.

The key, of course, …

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Community Shield Preview – 2nd August 2015

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Wenger to trip over Hazard once again

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho don’t enjoy the friendliest of relationships.

Barbs, insults and accusations have flown in both directions since the Portugese first entered English football and cast Arsenal into a supporting, rather than leading, role in the Premier League.

Call it mind games if you will, but the manager of the West London side clearly knows what he is doing – Wenger has never beaten Mourinho and Arsenal have now gone eight hours without scoring against Chelsea.

Yet a new season dawns with Sunday’s traditional season opener, the Community Shield, at Wembley where these bitter rivals will renew acquaintances.

Many Arsenal supporters in the past few seaons have bemoaned their lack of a world class goalkeeper as the only piece of the puzzle missing. They have now got their wish as Arsenal poached Chelsea legend Petr Cech …

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Manchester United v PSG – Pre-Season Friendly – 30th July 2015

United set to sign-off US Tour with clean-sweep of victories

United set to sign-off US Tour with clean-sweep of victories

Stat: Manchester United and Paris St-Germain have never previously met

The 2015 International Champions Cup draws to a close this week as most of the Premier League club’s pre-season tours wind down. Patient fans only have to wait until 8th August for the Premier League to restart, but Manchester United supporters will be looking to sign off their United States tour on a positive note.

Louis van Gaal has stated he needs a Galatico to deliver the title this year, but his current crop of players seems to be gelling well.

United have won all three of their US pre-season fixtures with the highlight coming against Barcalona in a 3-1 win. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian have all slotted in well and will only improve the longer they are with the squad.

Their opponents in …

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England v Australia Ashes 2015 3rd Test preview

England v Australia Ashes 2015 3rd Test preview

Joe Root’s form won’t be enough to overcome powerful Aussies

Australia’s resounding 405-run winning margin at Lord’s ensures the third Ashes Test is evenly poised after England ran away with the opening contest in Cardiff.

World number one batsman Steve Smith’s double hundred alongside Chris Rogers’ 173 contributed to the visitor’s first innings total of 566 at The Home of Cricket.  Although Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes applied resistance while their fellow comrades fell cheaply around them, the Aussie bowling unit, which showed real pace and aggressive fluidity, proved far too much.

As a result of England’s poor top-order batting performance, Gary Ballance has paid the heaviest price having been replaced by the in-form Jonny Bairstow. The former number three might feel hard done by after scoring 48 more runs than Adam Lyth and 25 more than the under-pressure Ian Bell in the series.

Yorkshire’s Bairstow has notched up five …

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Chelsea v Barcelona – Pre-Season Friendly – 29th July 2015

Barcelona to beat Chelsea in potential late stage Champions League preview

Barcelona to beat Chelsea in potential late stage Champions League preview

One of the most recurring statements in the press, and down the pubs, at this time of year is that many ‘can’t believe football is starting again so soon’.

In truth, there isn’t a real off-season anymore. Clubs of all shapes and sizes regularly embark on post-season and pre-season tours leaving some players, especially those who played in the Copa America, with just two weeks without football. 

Chelsea, who take on Barcelona in Washington D.C. tonight, had just 51 days between the final fixture of last season and the first pre-season game of 2015/16 – no rest for the weary.

Manager Jose Mourinho, however, is astute at involving younger players in pre-season and rotating the squad to ensure everyone gets minutes on the pitch and is fresh for the long campaign ahead.

Mourinho will be mindful of Sunday’s date …

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Argentina v Australia Rugby Preview – Saturday 25th July

Argentina v Australia

Argentina v Australia

Argentina will look to bring a jubilant Australia outfit back down to earth after Tevita Kuridrani’s late try secured a memorable 24-20 win for the Wallabies over South Africa in round one of the Rugby Championship.

The Pumas, who host Michael Cheika’s Aussie team at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza tomorrow, will look to right a variety of wrongs after they were convincingly beaten 39-18 in the opening fixture of this year’s tournament in Christchurch.

Although Argentina conceded five tries last time out, they can take heart from scoring two of their own. Captain Agustin Creevy touched down twice, with both scores created from strong driving line-outs. It was the Kiwis’ 37th successive home win, but the South Americans will feel they can be more competitive facing the Australians on their home patch.

The Wallabies, who lost to this weekend’s host 21-17 last year, have …

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Weekend Pre-Season Football Friendlies

United and Arsenal to continue strong preseason form

United and Arsenal to continue strong preseason form

The Emirates Stadium hosts the eighth edition of the Emirates Cup pre-season tournament over the weekend with two games each day. Arsenal’s opponents this year are another strong grouping including Lyon, Wolfsburg and Villarreal. Spanish giants Valencia lifted the trophy last year but the Gunners kick-off versus Lyon looking to secure a fourth trophy.

These two clubs have met only twice before and that came over a decade ago in the 2000/01 Champions League campaign. Thierry Henry’s lone strike in France gave them the all-important away goal in a 1-0 win that was proceeded with a 1-1 draw in London.

Arsene Wenger will be pleased with his side’s pre-season efforts to date following wins over Singapore Select XI in the Barclays Asia Trophy and a 3-1 win over Everton. Seven goals in two games will have given the hosts a great deal …

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South Africa v New Zealand Rugby Preview – Saturday 25th July

South Africa v New Zealand Rugby Preview

South Africa v New Zealand

Having suffered an agonising defeat 24-20 against Australia in the first round of the Rugby Championship last weekend, South Africa will be desperate to return to winning ways on Saturday when they host New Zealand at Ellis Park.

The All Blacks, who are attempting to win a fourth consecutive title, picked up a bonus point in their comprehensive 39-18 victory over an always-competitive Argentinian outfit on their home patch. Although captain Richie McCaw scored one of his team’s five tries and fly-half maestro Dan Carter kicked 14 points, there are areas which the world champions will need to tighten up if they are to overcome the Springboks.

The Pumas touched down twice through their massed lineout drives in Christchurch and there is a good chance that Saturday’s hosts will look to exploit this technical failure in a New Zealand pack which boasts over 495 caps …

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Rugby League: Hull v Wigan, Thursday 23rd July

Rugby League

Wigan can win on the road at expense of inexperienced Hull

As the top two tiers of Rugby League in Britain prepare to split into three divisions of eight, Thursday night’s clash is between two teams who have secured a place in the Super 8 – Hull FC and Wigan Warriors.

Despite both their places being confirmed for the play-offs, Wigan are still in the frame for a table-topping season which should hand them an easier set of contests in the Super 8 schedule.

They look to have every chance of extending their win streak to three, not least thanks to the return of Cook Islander Anthony Gelling who is likely to continue ripping up every Super League defence he faces.

Captain-fantastic Sean O’Loughlin looks as good as ever,  providing his comrades with plenty of inspiration and examples to follow, he can do it all; he kicks, passes, carries, tackles …

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Tour de France 2015 – Preview of final stages

Froome and Team Sky well set for glory despite controversy and crashes

Froome and Team Sky well set for glory despite controversy and crashes

Part of the charm of the Tour de France in recent years is the incredulity of the French press that British riders, and a British team, are now dominating proceedings.

The clinical approach implemented by Team Sky supremo Sir Dave Brailsford has certainly changed cycling forever and has resulted in first Bradley Wiggins, and now Chris Froome, ruling France’s most patriotic sporting event.

As the remaining 169 riders of this year’s Tour enjoy their second and final rest day, Chris Froome is still in the yellow jersey he retook from the unfortunately injured Tony Martin on stage seven. With just the final five of 21 stages left to run, you’d be a brave punter to bet against the Kenyan-born Britain celebrating in Paris.

The next four stages cover 371 miles in the Alps, including a grandstand finish on …

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Premier League Points 2015/16 Preview

Premier League Points 2015/16 Preview

Chasing pack powerless to stop Chelsea landing successive titles, but value lies in Man United’s points spread

Jose Mourinho secured successive league titles, 2004-05 and 2005-06, during his first stint as Chelsea manager and the enigmatic Portuguese is bidding to repeat the feat in his second coming.

Chelsea enjoyed a largely untroubled march to the title last year and they start are predicted finish with most points once again with an initial Premier League points spread of 82.5-84. The Blues have had a relatively quiet summer so far with just the two first team signings in Radamel Falcao and Petr Cech’s replacement, Asmir Begovic.

However, Everton’s John Stones is being lined up as a natural understudy for John Terry, and Felipe Luiz looks set to return to Atletico Madrid with Ausburg’s Baba Rahman to take his place. Those potential moves aside, Mourinho clearly feels he has a winning team already …

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Australia v South Africa Rugby Preview – Saturday 18th July

South Africa too strong for untested Aussies

South Africa too strong for untested Aussies

When did this fixture between two Southern Hemisphere heavyweights become a battle of the also-rans? The power of South Africa and the poise of Australia is currently paling in comparison to the almost ethereal dominance of New Zealand.

This is, however, a World Cup year, and both the springbok and wallaby are World Cup animals.

It takes a brave soul to discount any Australian team heading into a major sporting tournament but the Wallabies, in their lowest ever world ranking at seventh and with just one win in their last seven matches, face a massive challenge to convince the rugby public otherwise.

They’ll come into the fixture as an unknown quantity – a squad packed with quality, led by a talented coach in Michael Cheika, but with a new set-up that is severely untested at the top level.

Eight long months since their …

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Great Britain v France Davis Cup preview

France to triumph over Great Britain despite in-form Murray

France to triumph over Great Britain despite in-form Murray

Wimbledon withdrawal happens each year on the Monday following the men’s showdown and it never gets any easier. At least this time year is a mouth-watering Davis Cup tie to help ease the sorrow at Queens Club between Great Britain and France.

Andy Murray’s march to a second Wimbledon title was ended by an inspired Roger Federer and the Scot will be eager to make up for that three set semi-final defeat.

Jamie Murray went one better than his brother, yet couldn’t secure the men’s doubles final with John Peers when coming up against Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.

Both will be looking to put their SW19 disappointments behind them when they take on France with their fellow Brits to secure a place in the last four of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1981.

Captained by Leon Smith, …

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Super League Warrington v St Helens Preview – 16th July 2015

Saints tough enough to march through brutal Warrington

Saints tough enough to march through brutal Warrington

The penultimate round of Super League action kicks off on Thursday night with a real humdinger as hard-hitting Warrington host heavyweights St Helens at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. 

A quick look at either side’s forwards is enough to conjure up images of brutal tackling, grappling and forceful running – Thursday night’s viewing will not be for the faint-hearted.

Props Ashton Sims and Anthony England along with second rower Ben Currie all return from Warrington’s naughty corner after serving suspensions for violent conduct and will have plenty of pent up aggression to unleash on the Saints pack.

Add that to the likes of powerhouse Roy Asotasi and Ben Westwood, who has his own personal feud with St Helens, and you’d think the opposition would be trembling ever so slightly in their boots.

However, fire will meet fire on Thursday night as Saints boast …

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Open Championship 2015 Preview

Open Championship 2015 Preview

Oosthuizen well set for second Open triumph at St Andrews

Strangely all the talk ahead of the 145th edition of the Open Championship at St Andrews has been centred on a football match.

World number one Rory McIlroy ruptured an ankle ligament playing a five-a-side game to rob golf fans around the globe of another mouth-watering clash with Jordan Spieth. Between the pair they hold all four Majors, and the American Spieth has won the US Masters and US Open in 2015.

Despite McIlroy’s omission, the oldest professional golf tournament promises to be another fascinating battle for the Claret Jug – first presented in 1873.

Spieth heads Sporting Index’s Finishing Positions market with a spread of 23-26. He arrives at St Andrews with a Grand Slam of Majors firmly in his sights and having won the John Deere tournament last weekend. That was his fourth win this year and …

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The Ashes 2nd Test, 16th-20th July

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England set to assert further pressure on Australia

The England cricket team will look to continue their home-based dominance at Lord’s tomorrow after their impressive 169-run victory in Cardiff last week.

Having been labelled as the underdogs before the start of the Ashes series, Alastair Cook managed to get the very best from his XI, unlike Aussie skipper Michael Clarke who cut a forlorn and hopeless figure in the field along with the rest of his side.

Australia, who haven’t won an Ashes series in the UK since 2001, saw their star batsman Steve Smith replaced by AB de Villiers as the No. 1 Test batsman after consecutive scores of 33. In the opposing changing room, man-of-the-match Joe Root moved into the top five of the ICC’s Test batting rankings. Stuart Broad has followed suit in the bowling department, while Moeen Ali has broken into the top 10 within the …

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New Zealand v Argentina Rugby Preview – Friday 17th July

New Zealand All Blacks

All Blacks’ indomitable aura set to continue

With the Rugby World Cup now just over 60 days away, this year’s Rugby Championship between New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina takes on a fascinating role.

The reduced tournament will be a chance for coaches to try new combinations, battle-harden their warriors and gain psychological advantages over their rivals in the quest for the Webb Ellis trophy.

Back in 2011, Argentina were yet to join the SANZAR nations in yearly competition. That year, Australia were victors in the final Tri-Nations, sweeping aside eventual world champions New Zealand with a youthful team who succumbed to the same opponents in the World Cup semi-final just a few weeks later.

Since their defeat to the Wallabies in 2011, the All Blacks’ record makes for formidable reading: played 50, lost two, drawn two, won 46. They’re the only team to have won the expanded four …

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Tour de France 2015 Update

Quintana lurking but Froome in control as Le Tour hits the Pyrenees

Quintana lurking but Froome in control as Le Tour hits the Pyrenees

Nine of the 21 stages of this year’s Tour de France are already in the books and the Yellow jersey is on the back of Chris Froome of Team Sky.

Casual fans of cycling may think that it’s the natural order of things; Froome is a previous winner of the Tour and Team Sky are one of the best teams around.

Yet, when the first rider rolled out of the start house in Utrecht 10 days ago, Froome would have been hoping to arrive in the Pyrenees without injury and within a couple of minutes of the leaders at best.

The first week was hellish for some. Rain, wind, and stages set across cobblestones, combined with short sharp climbs, have seen 13 abandonments already and many more riders are carrying injuries.

Two riders, Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin, …

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Wimbledon 2015 Womens Final Preview

Williams to complete ‘Serena Slam’ in Wimbledon Final

Williams to complete ‘Serena Slam’ in Wimbledon Final

Serena Williams, after 20 Grand Slam victories and dominating tennis for neigh on a decade, still divides opinion.

Some believe she is a living legend who has almost singled-handedly changed women’s tennis forever. Others accuse the American of overplaying illness and injury to mask poor performances.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there isn’t likely to be another Serena Williams in women’s tennis for a long time and the 33-year old won’t be around for too much longer – enjoy her blend of power and skill while you can.

When Serena puts her mind to it and is at her best, she is utterly devastating and leaves her opponents with little to no chance of victory.

I suspect that is what will happen in Saturday’s Wimbledon final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.

It’s true that Muguruza has beaten Serena in the …

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Wimbledon 2015 Semi-Finals Preview

Wimbledon 2015 Semi-Finals Preview

Expect repeat of 2014 final as Federer and Djokovic look set to proceed

Wimbledon men’s semi-finals day promises two truly epic contests with three of the world’s four best players safely into the last four.

Only fourth-ranked Stan Wawrinka failed to reach this stage after losing the battle of the backhands to Frenchman Richard Gasquet in a five-set thriller. With that result the Frenchman secured his second Wimbledon semi-final appearance, his last coming eight years ago, where he will meet number one seed Novak Djokovic.

A five set marathon is hardly the best preparation to face the world number one and Gasquet has it all to do if he’s to cause a major upset. Djokovic leads the head-to-head record 12-1 and he’ll be fully confident winning again here.

After struggling against the big serving Kevin Anderson, Djokovic made light work of Marin Cilic when dispatching him in three sets. The …

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England v Australia Ashes 2015 1st Test preview

England v Australia Ashes 2015 1st Test preview

England may rely on a spinner to shine at the SWALEC again

One of the most storied rivalries in sport begins again  at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff when England and Australia renew hostilities, with bragging rights and a six-inch urn up for grabs.

The last Ashes test to be played at the ground was in 2009 where the Aussies were left immensely frustrated by a last wicket partnership of Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar that managed to protect their stumps for the game’s remaining 69 balls and hold out for a memorable draw.

Panesar was selected for his spin bowling in the knowledge that the wicket in Cardiff is notoriously dry, but it was in front of the stumps were he proved his worth.

Taking his cues from Monty, I think another spinner will shine again at the SWALEC this year.

Given conditions, Moeen Ali is likely to be …

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Queensland v New South Wales – State of Origin 2015

Thurston and Co. can take Origin back for the Maroons

Thurston and Co. can take Origin back for the Maroons

Australia’s fiercest sporting rivalry comes to a head in Game III, the decider of the State of Origin series, with Queensland looking to restore bragging rights over their southern neighbours New South Wales in front of their home fans.

Last year, the Blues won their first series title since 2005 and look to stand a good chance of retaining that crown.

They certainly had the edge in the middle of the field, winning the ruck in Game II thanks to the relentless and powerful trio Aaron Woods, James Tamou and David Klemmer.

With those players in mind, it’s no wonder that NSW have looked much fiercer than in previous years. They look to be carrying a deeper lack of respect for their hated opposition and are showing greater team cohesion.

However, Laurie Daley will be sweating on the health of …

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Tour de France 2015 Preview

In-form Froome can be king of Le Tour again

In-form Froome can be king of Le Tour again

Few sporting events have the ability to capture the attention of a nation like the Tour de France. The rise of Team Sky, alongside British winners Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome inconsecutive years, has seen cycling go mainstream in the UK.

The spellbinding aerial shots of the French country side, and the packed roads of the mountain stages, return Saturday for the 102nd edition of cycling’s most famous race.

There are relatively few things we can be certain of on a 21 stage bike race between over 200 riders. However, there will be crashes, breakaways, winding descents that make TV viewers cover their eyes in fear and gruelling mountain climbs in front of thousands of adoring, and slightly crazy, fans from all over the world.

Team Sky had a nightmare Tour in 2014. After seeing a rider in their colours …

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Copa America 2015 Final – Chile v Argentina 4th July 2015

Hardworking Chile won’t let Argentina spoil the party on home soil

Hardworking Chile won’t let Argentina spoil the party on home soil

Even for the lively display that Argentina put on against Paraguay last Wednesday, I can’t change my spots and will continue to root for Chile as they look to clinch their first ever Copa America title at the Estadio Nacional on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, thanks to a typically masterful performance from Lionel Messi, Argentina decimated their semi-final opponents by a five goal margin.

Surely that was enough to convince anyone that this is Messi and Co.’s time to secure their first piece of silverware for 22 years? Not necessarily, if anything, the 6-1 score line was a little flattering.

There were times in the game that manager Tata Martino was flapping like a bird on the touchline, as his defensive unit played clumsily for periods of the game.

The Argentine back four parted like the Red Sea …

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Wimbledon 2015 Third Round Preview

Wimbledon’s third round has some ace men’s matches

Wimbledon’s third round has some ace men’s matches

Richard Gasquet’s backhand is a thing of beauty and he’ll be looking to maintain his unblemished record against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov when they meet in Wimbledon’s third round. The pair have met on four occasions with the Frenchman triumphing each time, although they have never faced off on grass.

Gasquet secured his place in the third round with two straight set victories over Kenny De Schepper and Luke Saville – dropping just 13 games in the process. Dimitrov hasn’t dropped a set either, yet I am keen to buy Gasquet’s win index at 11.5. Both players have reached the Wimbledon semi-finals previously, but Dimitrov’s troubling form this year, coupled with his early exit at Queen’s means I am siding with the more experienced man.

Novak Djokovic is clearly still hurting from his French Open final defeat and has looked a man possessed …

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Women’s World Cup Semi-final Preview – Japan v England – 2nd July 2015

Women’s World Cup Semi-final Preview - Japan v England - 2nd July 2015

England can be first senior side since 1966 to reach World Cup final

The Lionesses of England will take to the field in Edmonton knowing that they are just 90 minutes away from achieving one of the rarest feats for any England football team – appearing in a World Cup final.

Just fifth or sixth favourites when the World Cup began, the Lionesses rode their luck to escape a tricky group before hitting their stride in the knockout stages.

Manager Mark Sampson will be hoping his charges can replicate their impressive performances when dispatching a highly favoured Norwegian side in the round of 16 and against the tournament hosts Canada.

However, their semi-final opponents are reigning World Cup champions Japan who will have their eyes fixed on defending their title against the USA in Sunday’s showpiece final.

Japan reached the semi-final thanks to a hard fought 1-0 victory over Australia …

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Copa America 2015 semi-final – Argentina v Paraguay, 1st July, 00.30

Copa America 2015 semi-final – Argentina v Paraguay, 1st July, 00.30

Argentina’s semi-final with Paraguay to be close, cagey and full of cards

Having knocked out eight-time Copa America champions Brazil in a penalty shootout, Paraguay now face tournament favourites Argentina in Wednesday’s Copa America semi-final.

Manager Ramon Diaz fears that this is an even bigger ask and has dubbed his Argentine opponents ‘the best national team in the world’. However, if you take into account the respective teams performances in the tournament, they look well matched.

Group B’s opening game couldn’t split the two sides as Paraguayan forward Lucas Barrios swept home after a well worked set piece in the 90th minute to secure an entertaining 2-2 draw.

It’s fair to say that neither side has really taken the competition by storm since. Paraguay have scored three goals since that match and tonight’s hot favourites Argentina just two.

Both teams advanced to the semi-finals thanks to nervy spot kicks …

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Copa America 2015 semi-final – Chile v Peru, 30th June, 00.30

Chile Copa America

Free scoring Chile can remain on course for a first Copa America title

An 81st minute winner from defender Mauricio Isla broke the hearts of Uruguayans and secured Chile’s place in Copa America’s final four, where in the early hours of Tuesday morning they face Peru.

Peru’s quarter-final was less of a nail-biter as Paolo Guerrero netted a hat-trick to brush aside rank outsiders Bolivia and advance one step closer to a third tournament win.

The Chileans are on the hunt for their first Copa America title and this is surely their best ever chance, not least because their squad is arguably the most well-balanced, but they also have the advantage of being on home soil.

The hosts have looked remarkably comfortable so far, scoring freely (11) and clocking up clean sheets (3). Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo has been brilliant in between the sticks, conceding only one during the …

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Berdych is the ace to upset established Wimbledon powers – 26th June 2015

Berdych is the ace to upset established Wimbledon powers

The strawberries are ripe, the cream fresh and the champagne chilled. Wimbledon has arrived and is shaping up to be a cracker.

Almost half a million fans are expected through the gates throughout the fortnight and, as usual, the majority will be hoping for an Andy Murray victory come July 12.

That the British No 1. has been handed the third seed behind reigning champion Novak Djokovic and grass court demi-god Roger Federer shouldn’t come as a surprise, yet many are seeing this as the Scotsman’s best opportunity for the title since conquering SW19 two years ago.

Murray was victorious earlier in June at AEGON Championships for a record-equalling fourth time. Ominously, the last time he won Wimbledon’s traditional pre-cursor was in 2013, before going on to claim the Men’s Singles title at the Grand Slam just a couple of weeks later.

He will have to pass better players than …

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Rugby League Challenge Cup quarter-final preview: Hull KR v Catalan Dragons – 25th June 2015

Rugby League Challenge Cup quarter-final preview: Hull KR v Catalan Dragons - 25th June 2015

Homesick Dragons will be slayed by Hull KR on the Humber

The first of this season’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals sees French side Catalan Dragon’s fly 1600km to Humberside to face Hull Kingston Rovers on Thursday night.

The big story surrounding this game is the loss of Hull’s inspirational captain Terry Campese. Campese has proved to be a top quality import who was being considered as a candidate for the Man of Steel Award, and Catalan will be buoyed by news of his absence.

However, Hull proved capable of winning without him at the weekend thanks to two other classy recruits who have hit the ground running in the UK, Maurice Blair and Albert Kelly.

Kelly has been particularly impressive, ripping Super League defences to shreds with his explosive running game and creative passing. A cousin of Greg Inglis, he’s not quite in the same bracket of talent but he’s well …

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England v Italy Uefa U21 Championships Preview

Young Lions can claw victory against Azzurrini

Young Lions can claw victory against Azzurrini

If there is one thing any England fan can be sure of at an international football tournament, it’s that the national side’s progression will be anything but smooth. 

The Three Lions’ youngsters have stuck with tradition so far at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship, losing first time out against Portugal before leaving it late against Sweden to seal a 1-0 win.

Much of the talk has been of England’s stellar frontline, which includes PFA Young Player of the Year Harry Kane, but it was their defence that impressed against the Swedes. Middlesbrough central defender Ben Gibson was a commanding rock in the backline before Jesse Lingard’s wonder strike won it for the men in white.

It was actually England’s first win in a Euro U21 tournament since 2009, after tanking to three defeats in 2013 and only managing two draws and a defeat …

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Brazil v Paraguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Brazil v Paraguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Brazil v Paraguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

The final quarter-final match-up is Brazil against Paraguay in Conception on Saturday evening. If you’ve ever visited South America when football is on, you’ll be fully aware that the rest of the continent loves nothing more than to see Brazil lose. I’m not sure what the citizens of Argentina enjoyed more at last summer’s World Cup, seeing their team in the final or watching Brazil be embarrassed at home.

Most of the animosity is jealousy, poorly disguised. The Brazilian football team have been rampant on the world stage in the past 20 years and have won the four of the last six Copa America titles.

The Samba Stars will host the competition in 2019, but will need to conjure up a bit of magic to go into that tournament as holders. Neymar is out of the tournament due to suspension and Brazil …

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Argentina v Colombia Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Argentina v Colombia Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi delivered Argentina to the quarter finals by topping Group B with two wins and a draw. Although on paper it was probably the weakest group, their opponents Paraguay, Jamaica and arch rivals, Uruguay, gave as good as they got.

World Cup finalists Argentina are matched against Colombia, who qualified as the second best third placed team from the group stages. The Jose Pekerman-coached side looked competent but unremarkable in a dull 0-0 against Peru – who finished above them in Group C – but rose to the occasion against Brazil in an ill-tempered affair.

That the game between Brazil and Colombia was a fiery encounter should have surprised few. It was during the World Cup last summer that Neymar broke a bone in his spine thanks to a knee in the back from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga, …

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Bolivia v Peru Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Bolivia v Peru Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Bolivia v Peru Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

This quarter final, although not blessed with a plethora of world famous footballers, should be a fascinating contest.

Bolivia is aiming to reach the semi-finals of this tournament for the first time since the late 1990s and got through to the quarter-final stage as runners-up in Group A. After a somewhat humiliating 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Alexis Sanchez and Co., Bolivia responded with a solid 0-0 against Mexico and a fine 3-2 win over Ecuador.

Peru is a very well drilled and organised side, as evidenced by their backline conceding just once in three Group C matches. A 0-0 draw against a Columbia side containing Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez won plaudits, as did their victory over Venezuela.

Peru also narrowly lost to Brazil in their opening group game 2-1, courtesy of a last minute strike from substitute Douglas …

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Chile v Uruguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Chile v Uruguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview

Chile v Uruguay Copa America 2015 Quarter Final Preview 

The Copa America tournament has now reached its business end, with eight of the original 12 teams left to battle it out for South American football bragging rights.

The hosts, Chile, have already scored a tournament leading 10 goals in their three Group A games through scintillating link-up play and look like the side to beat.

Their reward for topping their group is a quarter-final matchup in Santiago against Uruguay, who’ll be lacking star forward Luis Suarez who is still serving a ban for biting from last summer’s World Cup.

Uruguay has had a poor tournament by their standards so far. Shorn of the services of Suarez, they have had to rely on an increasingly immobile Edinson Cavani to lead the line.

They may be stout in defence as ever, but the 15-times champions don’t look like adding a record 16…

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England v Norway Womens World Cup Last 16 Preview – 22nd June 2015

Women’s World Cup Semi-final Preview - Japan v England - 2nd July 2015

Back the Three Lionessess to roar into the last eight

England have a fantastic chance of going deep into the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and can make a vital first step with a victory this evening in the round of 16 over tough Scandinavian opposition.

In their way are an impressive Norway side who are ranked 11th in the world and held pre-tournament favourites Germany to a 1-1 draw in the group phase.

Mark Sampson’s Three Lionesses suffered a defeat in their opening game of the World Cup against a highly-touted French side, but recovered well to finish as group runners up by beating Colombia and Mexico.

England are ranked fifth in the world and will be desperate to improve upon the 2007 and 2011 World Cup campaigns that brought defeat at this same last-eight stage.

Yet Norway will be a tough nut to crack. A 1-1 draw between these …

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England v New Zealand T20 preview: 23rd June 2015

England v New Zealand T20 preview

England v New Zealand T20 preview

It will come as little surprise that tomorrow’s one off T20 fixture between England and New Zealand at Old Trafford has seen a surge in demand for tickets, following the gripping five-match ODI series.

England, who clinched the series 3-2 having won the final game through the Duckworth-Lewis method by three wickets, have experienced a reawakening in the one-day format of the game after being knocked out of the group stages of the World Cup back in March.

Averaging 64.40 runs in the most recent ODI series against the Black Caps, a rejuvenated Eoin Morgan has seen his side break several records. From scoring more than 300 runs in four consecutive games to 10 England players having a strike-rate of a run-per-ball or better, the Three Lions have reaped the benefits of playing in a positive, attacking style.

Jonny Bairstow reminded selectors of his …

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England v Sweden Uefa U21 Championships Preview

England v Sweden Uefa U21 Championships Preview

England’s strikers can cancel out dangerous Sweden to avoid an early exit

England’s young guns face Sweden in their second game of the Under-21 UEFA European Championships on Sunday and it looks to be crucial a one. 

Having lost 1-0 against a very impressive Portugal side on Thursday, Gareth Southgate’s men must grab at least a point against the group’s early table-toppers Sweden to avoid a swift exit from the tournament.

Although hindered by the injury of speedy striker Saido Berahino, England have no excuses for another goal drought with PFA Young Player of the Year Harry Kane on the frontline.

Kane was given little service up front on Sunday as the Portuguese midfielders dominated proceedings. Yet, when chances did fall to the young striker he was kept off the scoresheet by a fine displaying of goalkeeping by Jose Sa who plies his trade for CS Maritimo in the Premiera …

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England v New Zealand 5th ODI preview: 20th June 2015

England v New Zealand 5th ODI preview

England v New Zealand 5th ODI preview

England and New Zealand’s five-match ODI series has come down to the final game, with the sides tied on two wins apeice.

Over a relatively short period of time, England fans have seen a total transformation to the side that failed to reach the quarter-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup, less than six months ago.

One of the few constants which has remained the same is batsman Eoin Morgan. The skipper, along with the rest of his compatriots, endured a miserable World Cup – the Irish-born captain scored 90 runs in five innings during the tournament, not reaching fifty once. However, in this series Morgan has clocked up 50, 88, 71 and 113 – a breath of fresh air in what has been a turbulent 12 months. His Performance Index appeals, trading at 40-45, (Run: 1 pt, Catch: 10 pts, Wicket: 20 …

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US Open 2015 Preview

Rickie Fowler on the prowl at Chambers Bay

Rickie Fowler on the prowl at Chambers Bay

The second golf Major of the season arrives on Thursday as the US Open tees off from Chambers Bay, a relatively new course in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington.

As usual, all eyes will be on Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. The world No.1 and No.2 will be strong favourites for the trophy. While it’s a big ask to hit his double Major-winning heights of 2014, McIlroy has still been generally imperious this year, claiming both the World Match Play and Wells Fargo Championship in May.

His 12 under par final score at this year’s first Major, The Masters, would have earned him at least a playoff for the Green Jacket in 15 of the last 20 years, but in 2015 he had to be content with fourth.

However, he can enter the US Open knowing that in four of the last …

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UEFA U-21 Championship 2015 Preview

UEFA U-21 Championship 2015 Preview

Back England to create history at the UEFA U-21 Championship 2015

The Under-21 European Championship kicks off Wednesday, and for England supporters it might just be a chance to witness one of the most rare sights on a football pitch – the Three Lions hoisting aloft a trophy victorious.

The Czech Republic are hosts to the 20th edition of the tournament that has seen England crash out of the group stages more times than most would care to remember. 

A buoyant mood in manager Gareth Southgate’s England camp has lifted the spirits of fans, however, who can point to an impressive qualification campaign, and a squad full of premier league experience, as reasons why this time it will be different.

The U-21s Euros is a fantastic tournament for football fans to savour. Just two groups of four teams will feed directly into a semi-final and final. No matches against minnows …

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England v New Zealand 4th ODI preview: 17th June 2015

England v New Zealand 4th ODI preview

England v New Zealand 4th ODI preview

England have to win at Trent Bridge tomorrow if they are to get the better of New Zealand in their five-match ODI series. The Three Lions, who won the first encounter by a record-breaking 210 runs, have now lost their last two outings against the Black Caps.

There have been vast improvements from Eoin Morgan’s outfit, who struggled earlier this year at the World Cup. Contributions with the bat from Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Alex Hales and Adil Rashid have seen the hosts score at least 300 runs in each of their last three innings. This youthful England team have shown promising signs of how they will approach the shorter format of the game in the coming years, although it is evident they still have some way to go.

In contrast, World Cup finalists New Zealand have an established set-up. They have …

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Royal Ascot 2015 Preview

Royal Ascot will witness a star in Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope

Royal Ascot will witness a star in Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope

This year Royal Ascot, boasting eight Group One races and a prize fund topping £5.5m, has attracted runners from the UK, Ireland, France, USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Germany and Japan and is set to be a fantastic week. 

Starting on Tuesday, regarded by many as Ascot’s best card of racing, there is no less than three Group One contests to drool over.

All eyes are on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Gleneagles who’s looking for his third Group One prize of the season in the St James’s Palace Stakes (4.20pm). I think he could be special and will take him to build on his 2,000 Guineas win to trounce his five rivals by three lengths or more.

Elsewhere on Tuesday’s card, the Ballydoyle trainer has a good chance of regaining the Group Two Coventry Stakes (3.05pm) with Air Force Blue, a …

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Euro 2016 qualifiers preview

Euro 2016 qualifiers preview

Count on Hodgson’s men to get narrow victory in Slovenia

England’s European Championship qualification tour takes them to Slovenia on Sunday. The Three Lions have a perfect record so far, but it always looked a fairly easy group to be fair. Qualification isn’t really in doubt, but Roy Hodgson will want to continue the good form shown so far, as the tournament in France next summer draws ever closer.

However, after the lifeless display against the Republic of Ireland last week, Hodgson’s men must pull their socks up and make major improvements in Ljubljana this weekend.

Slovenia have some quality footballers in the side and England won’t have it all their own way, although like England, the home side have their critics after a 1-0 defeat to lowly Qatar.

Despite that ‘friendly’ blip, Slovenia will come into the tie with their tales up having won all of their last four …

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England v New Zealand 2nd ODI preview: 12th June 2015

England v New Zealand 2nd ODI preview

England v New Zealand 2nd ODI preview

Cricket fans were treated to an exhilarating spectacle on Tuesday at Edgbaston. The ruthless pair of Jos Buttler and Joe Root helped steer England’s nascent one-day era off to a sublime start.

The new-look England side, captained by Eoin Morgan, rewrote the history books by claiming their biggest ever ODI winning margin (210 runs) and scoring 408 – their highest ever ODI total – against New Zealand.

The Three Lions, who now boast a 1-0 series advantage with four games to play, will look to capitalise on their momentum on Friday at the Oval.

Buttler, who currently holds the record for the fastest England ODI ton (61 balls), managed to score 127 off just 77 deliveries. The wicket-keeper batsmen is a potent threat batting at number six and is capable of scoring runs all around the ground. If Buttler continues to perform in this …

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Super League St Helens v Wigan Preview – 12th June 2015

Injury-hit St Helens will struggle against strong looking Wigan side in Friday’s Derby match

Injury-hit St Helens will struggle against strong looking Wigan side in Friday’s Derby match

Friday night’s game between fierce rivals St Helens and Wigan is a re-match of last year’s Super League Grand Final. That doesn’t mean that I’m expecting a blood boiling first minute red card or over 70,000 in attendance, as was the case at Old Trafford last October, but sparks will fly.

Wigan will be out to start putting the record books straight having won only five of the last 20 Derby contests, and I think they have every chance with St Helen’s still licking their wounds after a brutal game against Salford City Reds last Friday.

Despite winning that game by 20 points (32-12), it proved a costly victory for Saints.

Wigan will be pleased to see that St. Helens stalwarts James Roby, Luke Thompson, Tommy Makinson and Josh Jones are all unavailable after picking up knocks …

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Copa America 2015 preview

Copa América 2015 preview

Chile ready to turn up heat on favourites Argentina and claim first Copa América title

As the European football season draws to a close, the campaign for South America’s big prize is just about to begin. The 44th Copa América kicks off on Thursday with the host nation Chile playing Ecuador in the country’s capital, Santiago. This year’s tournament is set to be very closely contested with almost all of World Cup 2014’s overachievers taking part.

Chile knocked out Spain, Colombia were involved in the last eight, hosts Brazil finished fourth and Argentina second in a World Cup that saw more teams from South America (7) qualify for the knock out stages than any other continent.

It is World Cup runners up Argentina who will be hogging pre-tournament favouritism to equal Uruguay’s record of 15 Copa America’s. They go into this tournament ranked third in the world, the highest of …

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Football – 2015 Women’s World Cup

France to have too much for England in World Cup opener

France to have too much for England in World Cup opener

The Women’s World Cup kicked off with a bang over the weekend as ticket holders in Canada, and millions of viewers around the world, were treated to goals aplenty. Tournament favourites Germany were in ominous form as they put 10 past an outclassed Ivory Coast, while Norway scored five against minnows Thailand. 

England’s World Cup campaign kicks off Tuesday with a crunch match against rivals France that will likely decide the group F winner in Canada.

Lionesses manager Mark Sampson is overseeing a side that made light work of qualification, but stuttered in pre-tournament friendlies against the USA, Germany and hosts Canada.

The target for England is getting to the semi-final, but the sixth ranked side in the world will need to upset the odds to do so.

Tuesday’s opponents, France, are ranked third in the world and knocked …

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