|UPCOMING SPORTING TALKING POINTS & PREDICTIONS
Boston Celtics beat Philadelphia 76ers in the eighth regular-season game to be played in London last night. The Boston Celtics currently sit top of the NBA Eastern Conference and with 16 titles are the most successful club in NBA history. In the late 1950s and 1960s they won eight straight championships, which is the longest consecutive title run of any professional team in U.S. sports history. To put this in perspective, the most consecutive league title wins in English football is 3 – Huddersfield town in 1920’s, Arsenal in the 1930’s, Liverpool in the 1980’s and Manchester United twice from 1998 to 2001 and 2006 to 2009. Will this record ever be broken in professional sports leagues?
The NBA was watched by more than 750 million TV viewers in China in 2016, but where did the sport begin? Canadian James Naismith, a physical education teacher, invented the game in 1891 when he was looking for ways to keep his gym class busy on a rainy day. Basketball was introduced to England in 1895 and was played by both men and women. At the turn of the century school teachers from England travelled to many countries of the then British Empire, and the game “ladies basketball” (if prior to 1901) went with them. Soon after in England, in 1901 the first set of rules was published and ‘netball’ officially came into existence. In Australia and New Zealand it was called Women’s Basketball until 1970, when the name was changed to Netball.England’s netball team play the two best teams in the world this month, facing New Zealand (Silver Ferns) on the 20th January and then Australia (Samsung Diamonds) on the 22nd at the Copper Box in London. More than 1.2 million Australians play netball, more than rugby union and rugby league put together.
The final rounds of the European Champions Cup Group stages take place over the next 2 weekends. 8 sides go through to the Quarter Finals with the top 4 qualifiers securing home advantage. Clermont Auvergne and Leinster are the only two teams to have won all 4 games in the pool stages meaning all pools have crunch games this weekend. Our pick of the games are Scarlets vs Bath (loser almost certainly won’t qualify), Ospreys versus Saracens (likely to be a straight shoot out as to who qualifies in a runners up spot behind Clermont), Ulster vs La Rochelle (where the winner will top the pool going into the final round) and Racing 92 vs Munster (where three teams are still alive). There is also the added individual incentive for many of the players with 6 Nations team selection imminent.
The Australian Open starts in Melbourne on the 15th, with the finals on the weekend of 27th January. Roger Federer is the defending champion and favourite, despite Rafael Nadal being World Number 1. Federer was only beaten five times in the whole of 2017 and won all four of his matches against Nadal, although Nadal leads their fourteen-year-old rivalry with an overall record of 23–15 (13–2 on clay).
Serena Willliams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, will not be playing in the competition, saying she didn’t want to compete in a tournament she felt she couldn’t win. She is already the most successful player of the Open era and only two Grand Slam titles away from surpassing Margaret Court’s record.
Liverpool play Manchester City on Sunday at 4pm. Manchester city are 15 points clear and have gone 22 matches unbeaten in the league so far this season. They beat Liverpool 5-0 at the start of September but since then Liverpool have lost just twice and are unbeaten in 17 games dating back to October. What are the odds of a goalless draw with the attacking line ups of these 2 sides?