We seem to be comfortably slipping back into the busy weekend sporting schedule, with rugby’s Test season, the Premier League, and just about every competition under the sun back underway; but we’ve rounded up the 5 most important encounters you can’t afford to miss this weekend:
All Blacks v Wallabies
Rugby Championship | Saturday, 09:35
While the Wallabies put up a valiant effort in the first-half against the All Blacks last weekend in Sydney, the New Zealanders showcased their class with an impressive second-half surge; and it’s unlikely things will be to different this week in Auckland. The All Blacks have brought in the powerful Ngani Laumape into centre and Jordie Barrett at fullback, giving them larger, more physical ball-runners to utilise in the backline, hinting that Steven Hansen wants to bash the Australians into submission early.
Predicted scoreline: All Blacks by 14.
Arsenal v West Ham
Premier League | Saturday, 16:00
Arsenal have taken the risk of changing up their manager from long-serving Frenchman Arsene Wenger this season, and so far they’re experiencing some teething issues with the big adjustment. They’ve played City and Chelsea in their first two games, losing both, and will need to try and notch their first win against a hardy Hammers team that’s seen significant reinforcement over the summer. It’s imperative for this team not to let their confidence slide any further, so the entire Emirates faithful will have to be behind the Gunners so that Unai Emery can get his first win and inject some confidence into the squad.
Predicted scoreline: Arsenal 2 – 1 West Ham
Juventus v Lazio
Serie A | Saturday, 18:00
Ronaldo made his dramatic entrance into the Serie A last weekend against Chievo, but didn’t manage to open his account yet despite having a gilt-edged penalty opportunity that he failed to convert. Lazio will be a tougher prospect for Juventus than Chievo, and Ronaldo will want to break his duck sooner rather than later. Lazio finished fifth last season even won the Coppa Italia, so they’ll fancy their chances against a Juventus side still acclimating to their squad changes and trying to incorporate Ronaldo into the tactical setup. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is their prized midfielder, and he’ll be the player to keep an eye on because most of Lazio’s attacking build-up is orchestrated by the massive Serb. Although a loss for Juventus would be a surprising result, Lazio are quite capable of beating the odds and inflicting it on them.
Predicted scoreline: Juventus 3 – 1 Lazio
Springboks v Argentina
Rugby Championship | Saturday, 21:10
The Springboks demonstrated a much-better attacking game against the Argentines in Durban last weekend, but had some notably questionable defensive moments. They’ll have to be better this week, though, as they’ll also face the hostile Mendoza crowd, who have had the ability to boost Los Pumas to levels better than they usually are. It should be a far tighter encounter, but the improved Springbok side should have enough attacking diversity to sink a try or two more than their South American counterparts.
Predicted scoreline: Springboks by 10.
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League | Monday, 21:00
United and Spurs will be the two sides finding it the most difficult to retain their top four positions this year. Neither side significantly improved their squads during the summer transfer window, and on United’s end they’re dealing with the added complexity of Mourinho still not seeming to be able to get consistent performance out of his squad. Spurs have started the season as positively as they navigated last season, and will feel as though they have the upper hand even though they’re the traveling side. United have an uphill battle to gain some momentum and will need a disciplined performance against a solid Spurs side, a loss here could announce the start of the infamous Mourinho meltdown, while a win keeps that at bay for a little while longer.
Predicted scoreline: Manchester United 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur