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WEEKEND PREVIEW: The BIG 7

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The FA Cup Should be a Priority for Ole Gunnar Solskjear, Not Bragging Rights

Manchester United will come up against another top six team and again, the jury is out.

Not many will accept that Ole Gunnar Solskjear has drastically improved Manchester United, either because of their delusion, bias or downright goofy thought process; ignore the statistics, and we really cannot ignore a statistic that reads; in 6 games: 6 wins, 19 goals scored including a win and a clean sheet at the adopted home-ground of high-flying Tottenham Hotspur.

In simple terms, a new and improved Manchester United against Arsenal would set the tone for an incredible weekend.

The FA Cup should be a priority for United this season. It’s been a tough few months and the chances of finishing in the top four are not guaranteed, hence, a Cup win will put smiles on the faces of everyone attracted to the club. This is beyond proving his worth; it is more for Ole Gunnar Solskjear.

Perhaps a Record-Breaking Australian Open Final Awaits…

In the last 10 years, only four players have won a grand slam whose name isn’t Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer: Juan Martin Del Potro (US Open 2009) and Marin Cilic (US Open 2014) have won a single Grand Slam each, while Stan Wawrinka (Australian Open 2014, French Open 2015 and US Open 2016) and Andy Murray (US Open 2012 and Wimbledon 2013, 2016) have won three each.

A total of 8 Grand Slam wins out of an available 40, the big three have shared the rest among themselves.

Consider this a more astonishing stat: the “Big Three” have only failed to appear in a Grand Slam final twice in the last 10 years – US Open 2014 and Wimbledon 2016.

Such is the level of their dominance in this era such that it has taken more than grit, determination, and skill to get into this top clique. Their dominance is not just in the majors, a look at the ATP Masters 1000s, and 500s will cast a huge shadow on the talent and ability of the other players in this era.

Anyway, I was expecting either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer to win this year – both men are the most successful and the drive to win a seventh would have been immense.

Nadal has won only once and lost in three finals to Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Roger Federer, but he has recovered from his injury and played some incredible tennis over the past days.

As at the time of writing this, Djokovic is yet to play his semi-final game against Lucas Pouille, but he is widely expected to see off the 28-ranked Frenchman and reach his seventh Australian Open final.

In the female version of events….

The last two years must rank as the most challenging for Petra Kvitova who was attacked by a burglar in her home in December 2016 and seriously injured her arm which then required surgery and an ample amount of recovery time.

Well, here she is again, in another Grand Slam final, her first since she won her second major title in Wimbledon 2014 and against a young opponent whose name is fast becoming a household one.

Naomi Osaka, on her part, is looking to become the first woman whose name is not Serena Williams to win consecutive grand slam titles since Kim Clijsters won the US Open 2010 and Australian Open 2011 and why not?

Serie A Serves the Third Pie

The Serie A has three candy bars on offer this weekend, eh? And it will take a really catastrophic event to happen before I miss any of the games. Hopefully, football wins.  

AC Milan v Napoli

AC Milan will be without Gonzalo Higuain who, had he remained, would have been required to wreak havoc on his first employers in Italy. But the arrival of Krzysztof Piątek from Genoa is a real boost.

The polish striker who arrived Italian football barely six months ago without much of fanfare but has settled in really quick scoring 19 goals in his first 21 games – nine goals less than AC Milan have scored in the Serie A this season – will be required to quickly prove his worth at the Guiseppe Meazza.

Juventus visit Rome but not Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo’s tax evasion win during the week is equally a win for Juventus whose $150 million investments in the Portuguese has been threatened every day since his arrival in Italy last summer.

The champions will prefer to strengthen their lead over Napoli. This trip to Rome won’t be any easier, but a win will be a huge step in claiming a record-extending eight Scudetto.

Inter Milan must take advantage

Inter Milan, on the other hand, want all manner of results following their disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Sassuolo last weekend. Oh! They nearly lost that one too.

AC Milan and Lazio are six and eight points away from the Nerazzurri respectively, and their aforementioned slip has cost them a 6-point deficit from second-placed Napoli. See? Everyone has something to lose this weekend and Torino –Inter’s opponent – may be in the bottom half, but it counts for nothing on days like this. Keep an eye on this league. 

Impressive James Harden is Chasing a ‘Ghost’ Record.

It’s about time we ‘test James Harden to be sure he still has human blood running in his vain.’ Five consecutive 50-point games? On Wednesday night he recorded 62 at the New York Knicks including 15 rebounds.

It’s unlikely that he will have another 50-point game this weekend. Yeah, right. I said the same thing last time and look what he did. I’m not even missing this one against the Raptors who, by the way, the second best team in the East.

Oh! As far as records go, James Harden is a century of games away from Wilt Chamberlain whose record of 116 consecutive 50-points or more game record will take a while to match or even surpass. In the meantime, enjoy another James Harden classic.  

Golden State Warriors vs Boston Celtics

Did anyone notice the Warriors crawled back to the top of the Western conference with little or no fanfare? Well, isn’t that where they are meant to be?

It has been a topsy-turvy year so far, but we will expect the Warriors to see off the conference and have a bit of the inconsistent Celtics on the way too.

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