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WEEKEND PREVIEW: The BIG 7

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Tottenham Need a Good Performance Against Chelsea

Although Chelsea are still unbeaten, their season hasn’t been exactly perfect. Maurizio Sarri’s biggest concern remains getting his forwards to really deliver goals and the international break hasn’t always helped their case, breaking the rhythm just when they seem to have found it.

Chelsea have become hugely reliant on Eden Hazard more than ever, one wonders what would have been had Real Madrid made a bid for the diminutive Belgian in the summer. With Hazard, there’s always optimism that something will happen and it is a good feeling, but for how long?

The highlight of Tottenham’s season so far has been the 3-0 win over Manchester United, they haven’t come close to repeating that performance either in the Champions League or against other top six opponents in the Premier League either.

Games between these two are usually difficult to call. Yes, Chelsea have a superior head-to-head in recent years, but it has rarely been a walk in the park.

Chelsea are also not playing at the level of Manchester City, so Spurs will really need a good performance against this side that still flatter to deceive because a lot hinges on it.

Fernando Alonso Brings Magnificent F1 Season to a Close

With both the Drivers and the constructors’ championship decided (by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes), what’s the fuss about this weekend’s race? Absolutely nothing!

Since the 2019 Formula 1 season won’t return until the Australian Grand Prix in March, I’d rather enjoy this before I get starved of pure racing for the next four months.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also be Fernando Alonso’s 314th and final race weekend before he leaves to pursue opportunities in other series.

It’s tough to imagine how Alonso has called time on his illustrious career without adding another championship win to his collection, the last one coming in 2006. Between that time and now, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won nine championships and while Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg picked a championship each.

Although McLaren was granted special dispensation from the FIA to change the car colours in honour of Alonso, an incredibly rare thing for F1 teams to deviate for a single race from their set livery at any point during a season, don’t be too emotional to think Alonso might end the year with a win at Abu Dhabi.

The Spaniard might have won 32 races, but the last one was five years ago in Spain.

GSW Want to Snap Losing Streak this Weekend

It’s been six games without Steph Curry and three without Draymond Green, and Golden State Warriors have found themselves in a very unusual position.

For the first time in Steve Kerr’s era, and after playing 450 games, the Warriors have lost four games on the trot, three of those coming against Conference Rivals Spurs, Houston Rockets and now the Thunders; a new experience that they have to battle without two of the league’s best players to count on.

More concerning is the lethargy in attack, the Warriors have averaged 95 points per game during the run, an unusual statistic for the usually free-scoring Warriors side.

Up next is back-to-back home games against the Blazers and Sacramento Kings, if there ever is a time to bounce back, it is now.

“They’re not just gonna happen. We gotta make ’em happen,” Durant said of the notion that better days were ahead. “I got confidence in everybody in the locker room that we’ll make those better days happen, but it’s not gonna just pop outta nowhere and get better for us.”

Superclasico Takes a Ride to El Monumental

River Plate may have forced Boca Juniors to a 2-2 draw in the first leg, but they face an upheaval task of getting Ignacio Scocco ready for the big game on Saturday at El Monumental after failing to recover from a calf injury.

The absence of the highly thought-of 33-year-old striker will deal a further blow to a River side that are already without striker Rafael Santos Borré and currently stretched thin in attack. The dilemma for the coach will be to alter the team shape to accommodate these absentees or to bring on his third choice forward for River’s biggest game of the season. Tricky.

One thing is certain, this game will be intense from start to finish and no one will benefit from any undue home advantage.

Atletico Madrid vs Barca

Much ado about this fixture, different venue same results; Barca will always leave the Spanish capital with a win. It doesn’t mean I won’t watch this game, I’ll savour every moment of it.

Diego Simeone will be particularly keen to end the sheer dominance of Luis Suarez and Leo Messi in this fixture.

Since the Uruguayan signed in 2014/15, the teams have met on 14 occasions in the league, cup and Champions League. Barca have scored 22 goals and 15 of them have come from the boots of both Messi and Suarez alone. It’s the sort of madness Simeone will be keen to end.

That aside, the level of competitiveness in La Liga this season is surreal, cynics will say it’s just the beginning of the season, but with just four points separating the top six teams, again, I’ll savour this moment.

An Injury Ravaged AC Milan Travel to Rome

Fate has gifted Lazio an injury-hit AC Milan, how much of that advantage Simone Inzaghi’s side can manage is yet to be seen.

Captain Alessio Romagnoli became the latest senior centre back to pick up an injury, he joins Mattia Caldara and Matteo Mussachio who are both ruled out until the new year having ruptured their Achilles and Cruciate ligament respectively.

To add to AC Milan’s problems, top scorer Gonazlo Higuain will miss out through a suspension he picked up last time for lashing at the referee angrily against Juventus whilst midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu will also likely be sidelined through injury. Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura aren’t expected to return until March and April 2019.

If you ever wonder why AC Milan have been struggling lately, there’s your answer. Gennaro Gattuso doesn’t have much of a choice either.

France and Croatia Davis Cup Final

Ironically, these two nations faced off in the FIFA World Cup final in July, and now they clash again.

This year’s final is special, as it will mark the last time the Davis Cup final will use the home and away format. The 2019 competition is expected to do away with the home and away format after an opening qualification round and will culminate in an 18-nation finals week in Madrid in November.

For this weekend, 10-time champions France will take on Croatia – who last won the Cup in 2005.

The surprise, however, is the decision of the French captain to pick Jeremy Chardy ahead of Lucas Pouille, to play Marin Cilic. Although it is expected that Lucas will be recalled to play Cilic in the reverse fixture.

Whatever joker Yannick Noah is pulling off his hat, it will make for an interesting finale.

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