We’re still just edging into the 2018 sports schedule, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some colossal encounters going down this weekend — and we’ve got a handy guide to the biggest of them all, so that you don’t miss a thing.
South Africa v England (World Sevens Series)
The Blitzbokke were determined to make a mark in their home tournament in Cape Town in December, but fell short at the hands of their Kiwi counterparts in the last four. This time around, they head to Sydney rejuvenated from a long break, but will face England in their pool in their fourth and final game of the round robin stages. South Africa is in great form, with all their stars in tact, so it should be a tight encounter but one the Boks can win.
Predicted score: South Africa by 10.
Clermont v Montpellier (French Top 14)
While Clermont have been unlike their usual high-quality selves, falling to tenth spot in the French Top 14 log, Montpellier have had a flying start to their campaign despite bombing out of the Champions Cup. Both sides have a lot to lose and will be looking to give their respective campaigns a bit of a boost with a high-profile scalp. These two always produce a great game of rugby, but with Montpellier in such hot form, they will likely cause an upset to Clermont at home.
Predicted score: Montpellier by 7.
Valencia v Real Madrid (La Liga)
Real Madrid returned to their attacking best in their last La Liga fixture against Deportivo where they racked up seven goals. Their fortunes have been mixed, causing doubt about Zinedine’s future at the club – particularly after the suffered a shock defeat in midweek that knocked them out of the Copa Del Rey. Valencia has also had a bit of a drop in form, with two back-to-back losses in all competitions bringing a halt to their great run that saw them sustain a second place position for most of the season. This could be a pivotal fixture for both clubs; Real are looking to get within reach of Barcelona, while Valencia will want to fix their poor form. If Real win they’ll be within two points of Valencia in third place, but if they lose it’ll put even more pressure on Zidane’s position. They’ll need to replicate their attacking edge from the Deportivo fixture if they’re going to beat a resilient Valencia side.
Predicted result: Valencia 1 – 1 Real Madrid
Chelsea v Newcastle United (Premier League)
Pressure continues to rise for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as he and the current champions struggle to find consistent league form. Having been knocked out of the League Cup by Arsenal during the week, the FA Cup is effectively the only logical trophy that Chelsea has a good chance to win. Newcastle, fortunately for Chelsea, have been in patchy form themselves, and haven’t made significant signings during the January window so they should offer little challenge to the Blues. Conte will have a difficult decision to make in terms of his squad selection, he’ll likely want to rest key players for Premier League fixtures, but if he fields too weakened a team it could allow an opportunity for Newcastle to cause an upset. After the defeat against Arsenal Chelsea will desperately need a confidence-boosting victory and this fixture provides the best opportunity.
Predicted result: Chelsea 2 – 0 Newcastle
Barcelona v Alaves (La Liga)
While this game is likely to be an easy one for Barcelona to navigate it’s the first time that Philippe Coutinho will be available for a league fixture. After becoming the Catalan club’s most expensive signing fans and neutrals alike will be quite curious to see where he’ll be played and how quickly he adjusts to their style of play. Since Coutinho is ineligible to feature for Barcelona in the Champion’s League this season his best opportunity to win the fans over will come in the league, and he’s likely to become a quick fan favorite if he hits the ground running. Barcelona are comfortable league leaders with 11 points between them and their closest competitors Atletico Madrid, so at this stage it seems like their title victory is a certainty and the only question is by how many points they can win it.
Predicted result: Barcelona 4 – 0 Alaves
What are your predictions for this weekend? Which teams will come out on top in the respective encounters? Let us know by tweeting us @MenStuffZA!