STARTING with cricket and it’s now Australia 15 England three with regards to Test Match victories down under over the last 12 years!
Although they won the Ashes series 3-1 in 2010-11, England were white-washed 5-0 in 2006-07 and 2014-15 and they’ve just lost the latest series 4-0 after the Aussies comprehensively won the final Test by an innings and 123 runs in Sydney. As they say, things can only get better, starting hopefully, with the ODIs which take place over the next fortnight. The next Ashes series is in England in thesummer of 2019.
The first Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year starts on Monday in Melbourne, Australia. Reigning champion Roger Federer is ranked second behind Rafal Nadal, followed by Grigor Dimitrov (3), Alexander Zverev (4), Dominic Thiem (5) and Marin Cilic (6), followed by three Americans, Jack Sock (8), Sam Querrey (13) and John Isner (16) while Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic are standing 9th and 12th respectively. The 2017 women’s champion Serena Williams is out, along with Victoria Azarenka, leaving Simona Halep as the top player, ahead of Caroline Wozniacki (2), Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza (3), Elina Svitolina (4), Venus Williams (5), Karoline Plitskova (6), Jelena Ostapenka (7), Caroline Garcia (8) and GB’s Johanna Konta (9). Injured Andy Murray is also out –he’s had a hip operation – and Kyle Edmund could be an absentee as well.
My outsiders to reach the semi-finals at least are David Goffin and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut and Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe.
The 2018 Masters Snooker championship in London runs from the 14thto 21st January and once again Ronnie O’Sullivan will be going for glory, and the BDO Darts World Championship at Frimley Green is currently underway and ends on Sunday when Rob Cross, who beat Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor in the recent PDC Championship final, could be victorious again.
Onto football… and the biggest shocks in last weekend’s FA Cup third round saw the holders and record 13-time winners Arsenal crash out 4-2 at Nottingham Forest while Coventry beat Stoke 2-1 –a result which led to the sacking of Potters’ manager Mark Hughes. And for Arsene Wenger, it was his first-ever defeat in round three as Arsenal boss.
Other excellent wins were achieved by Newport County 2-1 over Leeds, by Peterborough 3-1 at Aston Villa, Liverpool 2-1 against Everton in the Merseyside derby (Reds’ £75m defender Virgil van Dijk headed the winner on debut), Manchester City 4-1 over Burnley, Manchester United 2-0 versus Derby and Spurs 3-0 againstWimbledon.There were also victories for Birmingham, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough (over neighbours Sunderland), Newcastle, Notts County, Preston (5-1 at Wycombe), Southampton, Watford, West Brom and the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, Yeovil who are in round 4 for the first time since 1949.
Chelsea, Leicester and toothless West Ham were held 0-0 by Norwich, Fleetwood and Shrewsbury respectively while League One leaders Wigan drew 2-2 at Bournemouth. The 4th round draw is: Bournemouth/Wigan v Shrewsbury/West Ham, Cardiff/Mansfield v Manchester City Carlisle/Sheffield Wednesday v Stevenage/Reading, Huddersfield v Birmingham, Hull v Nottingham Forest, Liverpool v WBA, MK Dons v Coventry, Middlesbrough v Brighton, Millwall v Rochdale, Newport v Spurs, Norwich/Chelsea v Newcastle, Notts County v Wolves/Swansea, Peterborough v Fleetwood/Leicester, Sheffield United v Preston, Southampton v Watford and Yeovil v Manchester United. Ties to be played over the weekend of 26-27-28 January.
The first legs of this season’s Carabao League Cup semi-finals involving Manchester City v. Bristol City and Chelsea v. Arsenal took place on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, with the return legs due next mid-week.
Also there are the semi-finals of the Checkatrade Cup and the FA Trophy and coming up this weekend, we have PL games involving Bournemouth-Arsenal, Chelsea-Leicester, Liverpool-Manchester City, Manchester United-Stoke City and Tottenham-Everton, plus Barnsley-Wolves and the Sheffield ‘steel’ derby between United and Wednesday in the Championship and in Leagues 1 and 2 it’s Wigan-Peterborough and Chesterfield-Luton.
In Spain, the imperious Lionel Messi scored his 365th goal on his 400th appearance for Barcelona who beat Levante 3-0 while Real Madrid drew 2-2 with Celta Vigo. Barcá now lead La Liga by nine points from Atletico Madrid and they are 16 ahead of fourth-placed
Real. Messi has now equalled Gerd Muller’s all-time record for most League goals for a European club. Andres Iniesta also made his 650th appearance for Barcá in this latest match.
At last, Brazilian Philipe Coutinho has left Liverpool for Barcelona for a fee of £142m (€160m). “It’s a dream come true for me” said the midfielder. Barcelona’s squad is currently valued at £525m (€706.5m).
Finally, in Rugby Union, in-form Newcastle Falcons beat Aviva Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs 28-20. Saracens (38-15 winners over Wasps) are second, five points behind the Chiefs (50-45) while London Irish are bottom (10). And some sad news from Rugby League… the Widnes Vikings’ centre Kato Ottio (aged 23) has died during a training session.