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As a result of England’s poor top-order batting performance, Gary Ballance has paid the heaviest price having been replaced by the in-form Jonny Bairstow.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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England v New Zealand 1st ODI preview: 9th June 2015

England v New Zealand 1st ODI preview

England v New Zealand 1st ODI preview

England ODI captain Eoin Morgan will lead his side into the 5-game series against World Cup Runner’s Up New Zealand tomorrow at Edgbaston.

While the Three Lions have made plenty of changes to the squad that was involved in the Test defeat to the Black Caps at Headingley, their opposition are expected to field eight of the victorious Test XI.

The most notable absentees from Morgan’s team are James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Stuart Broad all of whom played a part at this year’s ICC World Cup. Perhaps the most surprising omissions are those of Anderson and Broad, who have spear-headed the bowling attack and amassed 313 ODI caps between them. It’s worth remembering though that the Ashes series starts a month today so their services will no doubt be required later on this summer.

New Zealand head coach, Mike Hesson …

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Ladies French Open 2015 Final Preview

Underdog Safarova could shock tired Williams

Underdog Safarova could shock tired Williams

Serena Williams will ingrain her name even deeper in the history books if she wins the French Open final on Saturday, but Lucie Safarova will have other ideas.

Williams’ semi-final victory over Timea Bacsinszky at Roland Garros was impressive considering her complaints of illness. Some have raised suspicions over the sincerity of her grumbling but, regardless, she has spent more time on court than usual due to a tough three-setter against American rival Sloane Stephens in the quarter-final.

She went a set down against Bacsinszky, as she did against Stephens, but stepped up a gear to win ten games in a row and book herself a place in the final to potentially win her twentieth Grand Slam title. An expected heatwave in Paris will make it all the more difficult for Williams if she is feeling unwell.

Williams undoubtedly has the experience over her …

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Republic of Ireland v England International Friendly preview 7th June 2015

Determined Ireland to hold England

Determined Ireland to hold England

England take on Ireland in a friendly in Dublin on Sunday for the first time since a trouble filled, and ultimately abandoned, match 20 years ago. Tensions aren’t expected to be anywhere near as high this weekend as then, especially as the Irish will have one eye on a more important Home Nations battle on the horizon.

Ireland are two points behind Scotland in their Euro 2016 qualifying group, but have a chance to overtake the Scots when the Tartan Army come to town on the following Saturday. You’d normally expect the Irish to go for broke against England, but Martin O’Neill will be instructing his players to keep things friendly on the pitch with that date in mind.

England will be looking towards a qualifier their own against Slovenia next weekend. The Three Lions, however, are six points clear at the top of their …

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Investec Derby festival 2015 preview

Investec Derby festival 2015 preview

Hans Holbein and Diamondsandrubies, can score O’Brien a Classic double on the Downs

Five-time Investec Derby winning trainer Aidan O’Brien looked to be without a leading contender for Flat racing’s premier Classic, but a recent smattering of market support has installed his colt, Giovanni Canaletto, as fourth favourite for Saturday’s Investec Derby (4.30pm Epsom Downs).

The history books are against the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt however. Having yet won in Group company, he’s failed to fulfil a respected trend set by 12 of the last 13 Derby winners.

Without that potentially significant piece of form to his name, I’m happy to oppose Giovanni Canaletto in this year’s renewal.

Of O’Brien’s three runners, I am most taken by Hans Holbein. His game victory in the Chester Vase last month was enough to suggest he’s got all the traits of a Derby winner.

The colt’s breeding is laden with stamina so it’s likely …

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French Open 2015 Semi-Finals Preview

French Open 2015 Semi-Finals Preview

Djokovic and Tsonga to prevail in French Open Semi-finals

The pressure of being the French Open favourite hasn’t worried Novak Djokovic to date, and it shows no sign of doing so as he prepares to face a resurgent Andy Murray in what promises to be a mouth-watering semi-final.

The Serb is on a 27 winning-streak after becoming only the second player to beat French Open-legend Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Whilst that sounds impressive, Nadal hasn’t been in the best of form all season and a win over Murray would arguably be an even greater achievement.

Djokovic, however, won’t have it all his own way. Murray had never beaten David Ferrer on clay before their quarter-final clash on Wednesday. Playing with terrific aggression, Murray managed to steal some of the post match limelight despite his match being very much dwarfed by the epic Nadal v Djokovic clash on Court Philippe …

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French Open 2015 Quarter-Finals Preview

Novak Djokovic

Nine-time champion Nadal will go the distance with world No.1 Djokovic

The weight of expectation rests heavily on the shoulders of Novak Djokovic, with many predicting the Serb will at last take Rafael Nadal’s French Open crown in this year’s tournament.  

He now has a direct opportunity to dethrone the King of Clay in Thursday’s quarter-final match-up. Djokovic is yet to disappoint having sailed through his first four rounds without dropping a set. The 28-year-old knocked out the young talent Thanasi Kokkinasis without facing a single break point, and then conceded only six games in his fourth round tie with Richard Gasquet on Monday.

Now he faces a much tougher test in the shape of nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard’s year has been uninspiring so far with only the Argentina Open to his name in terms of singles titles. After brushing aside a list of underdogs in …

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Champions League Final 2014/15 – Barcelona v Juventus

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona - Copa Del Rey Final - 30th May 2015

Barcelona to complete treble in style

It will be a clash of true champions when domestic league winners Juventus and Barcelona face off at Berlin’s Olympiastadion in the Champions League final on Saturday night.

Despite Juve winning Serie A by a colossal 17 points, Barcelona are undoubtedly favourites following their emphatic Copa del Rey victory over Athletic Bilbao last weekend. That trophy will be placed alongside the La Liga title in the cabinet – but there is still space for the Champions League.
Star-man Lionel Messi is in scintillating form. His brace last weekend, which included a sensational individual opener, means he has 58 goals in 56 games this season. Add to that Neymar and Luis Suarez’s 62 goals between them and you may want to buy total goals at 2.8, especially as there has been an average of 3.2 goals per game over the last five finals.

Barcelona don’t …

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Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona – Copa Del Rey Final – 30th May 2015

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona - Copa Del Rey Final - 30th May 2015

Barca should continue on road to treble

The Copa del Rey is a significant section of the jigsaw for Barcelona, who are looking to piece together the treble after winning the league title and securing a place in the UEFA Champions League final.

This Barca side will remain on track to replicate Pep Guardiola’s success of 2008-09 if they overcome Athletic Bilbao in the final tomorrow, which aptly takes place at their home ground, the Nou Camp.

With Lionel Messi in the finest form he’s ever been, Bilbao will have to pray that the Catalonians are at least a little distracted by their all-important European date with Juventus in Berlin on the sixth of June. Neymar remains part of Messi’s supporting cavalry, along with the ever-impressive Luis Suarez.

Highly-rated Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte will need to be on top form, but even a man-of-the-match display from the 20 year-old could prove fruitless in stopping Messi …

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Rugby – Bath v Saracens – Aviva Premiership Final – 30th May 2015

Bath v Saracens - Aviva Premiership Final - 30th May 2015

Bath’s attacking philosophy should see them overcome dogged Saracens in Premiership final

The action-packed rugby season draws to a close tomorrow afternoon when Bath and Saracens go head-to-head for the Premiership bragging rights at Twickenham.

Saracens have somewhat snuck under the radar, qualifying for the final play-off spot via points difference. However, they took full advantage of their opportunity after becoming just the fifth away side from 21 play-off semi-finals to progress to HQ. The North London club overcame reigning champions Northampton Saints 29-24 at Franklin’s Garden last weekend.

Bath, who finished second after the 22nd round of fixtures, were mightily impressive, by trouncing a courageous Leicester Tigers outfit 47-10 in their semi-final just six days ago.

Led by the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season, George Ford, Bath have been exciting to watch all campaign, playing an expansive brand of rugby. Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph, who pair …

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FA Cup Final Preview – Arsenal v Aston Villa – 30th May 2015

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Aston Villa To Push Arsenal To The Wire

Arsenal should hold onto their FA Cup crown, but as the Gunners rarely respond well to pressure it may be a bumpy ride against Aston Villa at Wembley tomorrow afternoon.

It certainly wasn’t straightforward when Arsene Wenger’s side ended their nine-year trophy drought to win the FA Cup this time last year, going 2-0 down to Hull in the first eight minutes before eventually grinding out a win in extra-time.

Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa will be hoping to give Arsenal similar troubles on Saturday. Though the Villains leaked eight goals in their two league meetings with the London-side this season, and recently suffered a hefty 6-1 loss to Southampton, there’s no doubt they will be well up for this historic fixture.

Sherwood has never beaten Arsenal as a manager, and was knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by …

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England v New Zealand Second Test Preview

England v New Zealand Second Test Preview

In-form England set for back-to-back wins

England cricket is on a high. A fantastic win at Lord’s on the final afternoon of the first test, coupled with a new coach appointed, mean that the England head to Headingley with all the momentum as they take on a tough New Zealand side in the second and final test of the series.

However, things started badly for the home side at Lord’s when they conceded a 134-run first-innings deficit, but the bowlers came to Alastair Cook’s rescue once again and England were eventually victorious by 124 runs.

A heroic display from England’s Ben Stokes, where he bowled out Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum in consecutive deliveries, means he goes into Friday’s second test against the country of his birth as one to watch.

Williamson is New Zealand’s best batsmen and he, along with the likes of Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford, will be looking to put …

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Europa League Final 2014/15 – Sevilla v Dnipro

Sevilla to lift the Europa League title again

Sevilla to lift the Europa League title again

Winning the Europa League is fast becoming something of a habit for Sevilla. The Spanish side have hoisted the coveted trophy on three previous occasions in the past 10 seasons, including last seasons, and look set fair to do so again in Warsaw on Wednesday evening.

The Europa League gets a fairly bad name in UK football circles as the tournament seems to begin earlier every year, and include teams from countries most punters weren’t even aware were in Europe. I suspect it’s often easier to pretend your club didn’t care about a tournament once you’ve been knocked out.

Since Ipswich Town won a two-legged affair against AZ of the Netherlands in 1980/81, only two sides from the oft-named ‘best league in the world’ have won this competition, Liverpool in 2000/01 and Chelsea in 2012/13. The Europa League is a demanding competition, …

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French Open 2015 Preview

Djokovic looks set to break French duck with Nadal out-of-sorts

Djokovic looks set to break French duck with Nadal out-of-sorts

As the first serve of the French Open draws closer spread betters are rubbing their hands together at the mouth-watering prospect of two weeks tennis from the French capital.

it’s hard to ignore ‘The King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal’s recent slide to world No.7. With the tournament prioritising ATP rankings over previously French Open success, Nadal’s seeding means he will now face favourite Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals if both men were to progress that far.

The Spaniard has won the French Open every year since 2005, having defeated Djokovic in four sets at last year’s final. However, Nadal’s previously formidable form on clay has come crashing to a halt this year with a loss to Andy Murray at the Madrid Masters the latest in a line of disappointments.

Djokovic’s year has been quite the opposite. The Serbian is unbeaten …

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Hull City v Manchester United 24th May 2015

Victory for Van Gaal’s Man Utd will spell relegation for Hull

Victory for Van Gaal’s Man Utd will spell relegation for Hull

The Premier League relegation battle has gone right down to the wire this season. On Sunday, 18th placed Hull City have to beat Manchester United to avoid playing Championship football next August. 

An inferior goal difference for the Tigers means that should 17th placed Newcastle take just a point at home to West Ham a win will not be enough to maintain their top-flight status.

Hull captain Michael Dawson has called for a miracle to save his ship from sinking, and he will certainly need one now that Jake Livermore is out having tested positive for cocaine.

The supporters will recall joyous scenes on the final day of the Premier League season back in 2009 when ex-manager Phil Brown burst into song on the pitch after his side avoided the drop despite, ironically, a familiar loss …

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Newcastle Utd v West Ham Utd 24th May 2015

Free falling Newcastle can bag crucial three points against West Ham

Free falling Newcastle can bag crucial three points against West Ham

Relegation-threatened Newcastle host West Ham on the final day of the Premier League season having failed to win any of their last eleven games.

A tame defeat at Queens Park Rangers last weekend has left players and supporters alike low on confidence and one more poor result could spell relegation for the Magpies.

West Ham’s form has also slumped since the turn of the year. The Hammers were an early season surprise package, occupying a Champions League qualification spot at Christmas, but have since fallen to eleventh. They’ve won just three Premier League games in 2015 (although that’s one more than Newcastle) and speculation over Sam Allardyce’s future is rife.

‘Big Sam’ was sacked by Newcastle back in 2008 after just 24 games and I’m sure that the Hammers’ boss would rejoice in knocking his ex-club out of the …

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Arsenal v Sunderland 20th May 2015

Sunderland out to make a single point at Arsenal as relegation looms large

Sunderland out to make a single point at Arsenal as relegation looms large

Tonight’s Premier League matchup between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates will go a long way in determining the away side’s future.

Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland sit three points clear of current relegation zone occupiers Hull City, and only a point ahead of bitter rivals Newcastle United. Their mission is to get a single point from their two remaining games to guarantee top-flight football next season.

Unfortunately for the Black Cats, that means a week away in London finishing with a stiff test against league champions Chelsea and tonight’s game against a side they have only taken one point off in the last four seasons.

The Mackem’s visit to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season is unlikely to bear fruits as the Blues will want to make sure that any result doesn’t put a dampener …

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WBA v Chelsea Preview 18th May 2015

West Brom will put up a fight but Chelsea’s class should shine through

West Brom will put up a fight but Chelsea’s class should shine through

Jose Mourinho paid the ultimate compliment to his opposite number Tony Pulis ahead of Chelsea’s visit to West Brom tonight. The Portuguese manager said “If I own an English club, I sign Tony Pulis. It’s as simple as that – he’s a guarantee to achieve what the club wants.”

Since joining West Brom in January, Pulis has overseen just five defeats as the Baggies sit well clear of the relegation places and are unbeaten in their last four.

Chelsea are champions but their boss has made no secret of the fact he wants to win the last two league games and hit the 90-point mark for the season. If they are to do that they’ll have to win at the Hawthorns for the first time in four matches – a run that has seen them lose two …

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Final Round of Aviva Premiership Preview 16th May 2015

Final Round of Aviva Premiership Preview

Final Round of Aviva Premiership Preview 

There is a gripping Super Saturday in store for all rugby lovers tomorrow (3.30pm) as the final round of the Aviva Premiership gets underway. The fixtures hold particular significance to Leicester Tigers, Exeter Chiefs and Saracens, who are all vying for the two remaining semi-final positions.

Northampton Saints and Bath have already claimed the first two spots. Saints, who have lost just four times during their campaign, finished top of the pile for the first time in the club’s history. Bath also breathed a sigh of relief, having overcome Harlequins at The Stoop last week.

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill will look to guide the Tigers to their 11th consecutive year of play-off rugby. They managed to notch up their 14th domestic win of the season against Wasps last weekend.

Despite home comforts, the odds are stacked against Leicester. Saints coach Jim Mallinder …

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Manchester Utd v Arsenal Preview 17th May 2015

Don't expect thrills and spills as Arsenal travel to Man United with little at stake

Don’t expect thrills and spills as Arsenal travel to Man United with little at stake

Arsenal conceded late to Swansea at the Emirates on Monday night, giving the visitors a first league double against the Gunners since the 1981-82 season. Although that result will live long in the memories of the delighted travelling fans, Arsenal will be more concerned by the chances of Manchester United following up on their November victory in this Sunday’s matchup.

While Arsene Wenger’s men were dominant against United at home, it was the visitors who took their chances. Louis Van Gaal’s men, with a bit of help from Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs, found themselves two goals to the good – enough to nullify Olivier Giroud’s injury time goal.

Some pride was restored when the Gunners knocked their old enemy out of the FA Cup here at Old Trafford in March and the north London club will no …

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Championship Play-Offs Preview 15th May 2015

Championship Play-Offs Preview 15th May 2015

Middlesbrough and Norwich set to fight out £150m promotion prize at Wembley on 25th May

Middlesbrough can seal a place in the Championship play-off final and a crack at returning to the Premier League for the first time since 2009 later.

Boro go into tonight’s second-leg against Brentford with a 2-1 lead after victory at Griffin Park last week which took their winning run against the Bees to six. They have also won the last four home meetings and Brentford fans have to go back until March 1938 to find the last time their side was victorious at the Riverside.

Aitor Karanka’s side will be disappointed they didn’t get promoted automatically having been top of the table in early March. Three defeats in their last nine league games meant they only finished fourth, but Brentford were lucky to even make the play-offs.

Starting a thrilling final day in seventh, …

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Europa League 2014/15 – Semi Final 2nd Legs Preview

Sevilla will settle for damage limitation and Dnipro can leave Napoli in the cold

Sevilla will settle for damage limitation and Dnipro can leave Napoli in the cold

Tonight’s Europa League semi-final between two previous champions of the competition, Fiorentina and Sevilla, will determine who gets a tilt at this piece of silverware once again.Sevilla look to have the two-legged affair all but decided after their 3-0 drubbing of Fiorentina in Spain last week. It was the 25-year-old Spaniard Aleix Vidal who scored twice in the tie to lift his side towards a record-breaking fourth Europa League Success.

In truth, the 3-0 scoreline only represents how wasteful Fiorentina were on the night. Despite the visitors enjoying more possession than Unai Emery’s men, and sharing the same amount of total shots, Fiorentina left empty handed.

Since, midfielder Josip Illic has continued his domestic scoring spree for the Viola bagging a brace away from home in Serie A at the weekend. Egyptian ex-Chelsea winger Mo Salah …

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Champions League 2014/15 – Real Madrid v Juventus Semi Final Preview

Juventus must be tough and rough in defence to keep out Real Madrid

Juventus must be tough and rough in defence to keep out Real Madrid

Real Madrid and Juventus have faced each other on 17 occasions in the European Cup with honours perfectly shared ahead of their semi-final second leg showdown at the Bernabeu.

Tonight’s home side, Madrid, have won eight of the contests, as have the visitors, with only one draw. There has never been a winning margin wider than two goals and seven of the 11 meetings in the knockout stages of this tournament have been victories by a goal to nil. Yet another very close contest is anticipated between these two European giants under the floodlights at the Bernabeu this evening.

Interestingly, none of Madrid’s last 11 ties with Italian teams have ended in a draw and it’s the away side who nose into this fixture with a 2-1 advantage. So Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid will be set up to …

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Champions League 2014/15 – Bayern Munich v Barcelona Semi Final Preview

Damage limitation on the cards for Bayern Munich at home to Barcelona

Damage limitation on the cards for Bayern Munich at home to Barcelona

German champions Bayern Munich have lost four games in a row for the first time since 1991 after a 1-0 defeat to Augsburg at home on the weekend. That’s hardly a good preparation for their semi-final tie against Barcelona tonight when the side are aiming to become the first in Champions League history to overcome a 3-0 first leg knock-out defeat and progress.

Pep Guardiola’s men put up a brave effort against the Catalan giants at the Nou Camp with a weakened team last Wednesday. But ultimately they were outdone by a mesmerising blitz from Lionel Messi that saw the Argentinian score two brilliant goals within the space of three minutes towards the end of the game. He then provided the assist for Neymar in the dying seconds which all but sealed a place in the final.

Munich …

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Arsenal v Swansea City Preview 11th May 2015

Arsenal’s stellar home form can see off Swansea challenge

Arsenal’s stellar home form can see off Swansea challenge

Liverpool’s draw at Chelsea yesterday confirmed a top-four finish for Arsenal in the Premier League ahead of the visit of Swansea to the Emirates tonight. Arsene Wenger’s men have two games in hand of Manchester City and should feel confident of finishing second.

That, combined with an FA Cup final versus Aston Villa that they are expected to win later this month, means there is reason for optimism ahead of next season. Despite a poor start to the campaign, Arsenal should deservedly take the runners-up spot and, having lost just one of their last 34 league games at home, they should be in confident mood later.

Swansea are no pushovers, though, and the camp have been talking up their chances of claiming an unlikely sixth place finish in the last couple of days. In seven Premier League meetings between the pair, …

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