We’re starting to get close to the home stretch in all the European football leagues, with the logs taking shape and intriguing battles developing both at the bottom and top of the log. A huge grudge match between Liverpool and Spurs in the Premier League is the pick of the bunch, with a few other action-packed fixtures in the rugby world taking place as well.
South Africa v England (World Sevens Series)
Despite making the Cup final, the Blitzbokke had a bit of a topsy-turvy tournament in Sydney last weekend, and never really seemed to hit their usual word-class form. England themselves also had a patchy competition, and both teams will be looking to get back into Cup contention this weekend. The pool battle between the two will prove decisive, and will give the victor a huge psychological advantage should they progress to the latter stages of the Cup. England did look good last weekend, but SA were on the brink of clicking into higher-gear, and we think they’ll hit that in New Zealand this weekend.
Predicted Result: South Africa by 10.
France v Ireland (Six Nations rugby)
Ireland go into their opening match of the 2018 Six Nations as short odds favourites to beat an enigmatic French team who, in typical Les Bleus fashion, could either play brilliantly or get thrashed. France owe it to themselves and to their supporters to turn things around in 2018, however, they couldn’t have faced a tougher situation in having the hosting pressure of a clinical and brilliant Irish side. Expect Joe Schmidt’s men to be lethal and rack up some penalty points where the French slip-up.
Predicted Result: Ireland by 12.
Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
After the boost of their victory against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur are knocking at the door of the top 4 spots on the log, sitting just two points below Liverpool and Chelsea who are both on 50 points a piece. Liverpool is a tough opponent, particularly against fellow top 6 teams who they seem to elevate their game against, but they’ve suffered incredibly patchy form of late – oscillating between impressive victories and flabbergasting defeats. Spurs will likely feel like the more confident team due to Liverpool’s defensive frailties and having remained unbeaten in their last six matches.
Predicted Result: Liverpool 2 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Atletico Madrid v Valencia (LaLiga)
Valencia looked like legitimate title contenders for the first half of the season, managing to stay hot on the tails of league-leaders Barcelona. Unfortunately for Los Che, their recent form has been disappointing, with three losses in succession, and they’ve slipped to third in the league behind Atletico Madrid, who sit six points above them. In the reverse fixture played in September 2017, the teams ground out a tight but relatively uneventful 0-0 draw, which would suit Atletico fine in the current context, but it’s insufficient for Valencia who need to get a victory to keep space between themselves and Real Madrid who are two points below them. Atletico Madrid is a resilient team known for exhausting their opponents though, and should manage to get a narrow victory against a Valencia team coping with key injuries.
Predicted Result: Atletico Madrid 1 – 0 Valencia
Arsenal v Everton (Premier League)
Both Arsenal and Everton have made significant January signings in a bid to improve their league form, and after slipping to sixth in the league, an uptick in performances is paramount for the Gunners. With their new record-signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang raring to go, fans will be looking forward to some more competent attacking displays from the London team. Everton signed Theo Walcott from Arsenal, though, who has already opened his account for the Toffees, and who will likely have added impetus to put one past his old team. The pressure is firmly on Arsenal though, as growing frustration from fans over their decline in recent years reaches fever pitch. They have to string some decent results together to chase down Spurs who are six points ahead of them; a bitter pill for the Arsenal support to swallow.
Predicted Result: Arsenal 3 – 1 Everton