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LEICESTER CITY VS SPORTING BRAGA

The foxes have impressed in the last few games and there was no letting up on Thursday night. What a pass from Tielemans in the build up the third goal from fellow Belgian Praet. Iheanacho, deputizing for the rested Vardy struck a brace to stake a claim for a starting berth but it will take some doing to depose Vardy in the form he is in. Braga on the other hand barely threatened Schmeichel’s goal. With competition for the top 4 places in the Premiership promising to be at an all time high, this competition may provide a route for Leicester into the Champions League. They need to sort out their consistency issues particularly after Christmas. Their over reliance on goals from Vardy may come back to bite them and may possibly need to dip into January market to find a player who can supplement him. No offence to Iheanacho and Slimani of course.

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PARIS MASTERS HIGHLIGHTS

Standout result on Thursday was Stan Wawrinka beating the in form Russian Andrey Rublev in 3 sets. Stan the man recovered impressively from losing the first set for just 1 game showing his younger upstart he has a lot in his 35 year old self.The key to his victory was winning his efficient conversion of break points(3/5) to Rublev’s (3/6). There was not much in it but it proved to be telling. Rafa Nadal celebrated a milestone 1000th win on the tour with a straight sets win over Australian Thompson. Thompson impressed me with my shot of the day when he was 3-2 up in the second at 0-15. Nadal is now ONLY behind Jimmy Connors(USA), Roger Federer(SUI) AND Ivan Lendl(CZE). He looked much settled after a shaky last match with Lopez.

LA LIGA: GIRONA VS REAL MADRID

The destination of this season’s La Liga title , if it was in doubt, it is now a for gone conclusion. Real Madrid produced a shockingly bad 75 minutes in Girona that will give Manchester City hope that this could finally be their year of European glory. Los Blancos have been average in La Liga this season by their honest standards, Ancelotti rotating heavily with the Champions League the top priority. That doesn’t excuse the first and second Girona goals given the experience of Rudiger and Eder Militao, the first goal both of them hopelessly out of position, the second Eder Militao’s Harry Maguire like lack of concentration off the ball. Girona are a great counter attacking side with mentions going to their winger Riquelme and the striker Castellanos. The catalan club has managed their personnel well this season getting quality on loan at a reasonable price in terms was player wages and sign on fees. Players like Oriel Romeu from Southampton. A good example for modest clubs out there.

One notable thing on Real Madrid is that most of their 30 something players have started to look their age and are struggling with the fixture congestion this part of the season. Nacho and Carvajal in particular had a nightmare of a game.The brightest spark in this game as it has been all season for the reigning champs came from Vinicius Junior. The winger showing he is the complete player with a difficult header to pull one back at 2-1. No Courtios, More problems for Real Madrid. Lunin deputized although he wasn’t at fault for 3 of the goals , one has to put spotlight on the Ukrainian for the fourth goal. Not coming out for the cross was suicide for the goalie. This loss meant Real are now 11 points adrift of Barcelona with only 7 games to play. Probably curtains to winning the Campeonato for the season.

BOXING:GERVONTA DAVIS VS RYAN GARCIA

Let’s face it Boxing, the lightweight division in particular, is crying out for a poster boy since Money went out to spend his money. Davis looks promising WITH AN UNBEATEN streak which stretches the 10 years of his pro career.The fact that he hold the WBA lightweight title is no fluke. Opponent is Ryan Garcia is also unbeaten , has been doing this since he was practically in diapers, making this a must see. The reason folks fell in love with lightweight boxing is the propensity for fights to go the distance, giving paying public what they want. I am happy to say I was wrong. Why? Leaving it to two guys sitting on a bench tends to leave one of the fighters aggrieved. The measured approach by both fighters in Round 1 tends to suggest that it might go to the fellows on the bench. The surprise Round was Round two. No doubt Gervonta’s reach disadvantage may have prompted Garcia to go for the jugular that early in the match.

You know what? Davis handled that onslaught so well he got his first knock out of the match during it. Game plan , Davis was crouch low enough so that Garcia wont reach the vital parts, face and ribs. Ryan didn’t protect himself well enough on that one. It was back to default mode in round three, sensible boxing, conservative boxing. Davis was ahead on points on my little card by then. Best Round from Garcia was Round 5, he landed telling blows to Davis. The thing with Davis is that he is a clever little fighter, he boxes close to the ropes each time he boxes a boxer with height advantage over him, you know in case of trouble. Round 7 was the final round and what a surprising knockout it was. It seemed like an innocuous enough blow to the midriff that left Ryan winded. The beauty of having a non title bout is that both have nothing to lose so they go for the victory. The bad part is that if a boxer is down(and clearly hurt in the nose) like Ryan did there, there really isn’t much of an incentive to carry on. I believe if there was a title on the line he could have carried on. But hey your health comes first. Good bout to make you fall in love with Boxing again.

MANCHESTER UNITED TAKEOVER:WHY THE QATAR BID MAKES SENSE

The Red Devils are up for sale. The unpopularity of the Glazer family is well documented and it seems at last they are willing to let go of their pot of gold. In a world which now has 2668 billionaires, suitors haven’t been scarce at all, in fact bids have come from everywhere with the main ones being Sir Jim Ratcliffe,¬†Elliott Investment Management(US FUND MANAGERS)and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar the once I believe should be the one. The irony is that the one that makes sense is now the most controversial. Where is the controversy coming from? The Sheikh is a former politician in Qatar , having served as Prime Minister. That political connection has sent the sports washing conspiracy geeks on overdrive. That doesn’t outweigh the benefits of such a deal. Part of the gripe the United fans had with the Glazers was their penchant of declaring dividend(even in trying times such as the coronavirus pandemic) when it makes sense to reinvest the profits into the club so that funds are available for transfer market. Qatari owners of other clubs in soccer have been frugal when it comes to paying themselves at the expense of the club. Take the QSi consortium that owns PSG who poured over 1.4billion US dollars on players. The human rights and political issues are issues yes but for the good of the club, fans should be willing to accept that risk. Those socio-environmental issues have been so loudly presented by social activists(LGBTIAS+,etc) not only concerning this bid but other sports in which Middle Eastern power figures are involved such that FIFA is mulling introducing a Sustainability Manager to handle these issues.

What must be considered is that the cultures and religions of the West differs a lot from the rest of the world ,such as that tolerance and acceptance is needed if progress is to be achieved. Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the fan favorite and the emotional choice. It doesn’t necessarily mean his bid is bad. He is a life long United fan and will certainly have their long term interests at heart in his decision making. Here is where his bid falls short. He only bid 69% of the club which means he has to deal with whoever gets the other 31%. As you know too many cooks tend to spoil the broth, different agendas and motives may clash and guess who suffers? The Sheikh is bidding for the whole team 100%. On paper, at least my shiny paper, the Elliott I.G bid looks the weakest. Their bid comes in late which gives the impression that its hurried and unorganized. However Fund Managers have the unique advantage of having a large pool of wells to drink form, that is they have large number of big clients who have invested huge funds with them so the tap might not get dry if my drift is got. However like the Ratcliffe bid , these big clients may not want their money invested in risky projects(yes some don’t think investing in a sports team is a wise investment), like what happened with the pandemic, misalignment of wages with earnings which sends teams into administration. So putting aside the “human rights” issue, the strongest bid is from the Sheikh and United fans should excited when(oops if) he is successful.

ROTTERDAM OPEN:TSITSIPAS VS SINNER

Who was up for Stefanos vs Jannik part two for 2023? These guys are the next generation of superstars in men’s tennis, they produced a thriller in Melbourne last month , could they repeat? How disappointed was I from the Greek. Look when it comes to Stefanos expect the ups and downs in a season a stock price. The next hurdle will be to find that consistency , that unfortunately goes for Sinner as well , if the two are to land that illusive grand slam. Watch 1-1 first set deuce on the Stefanos racquet. That Stefanos’s forehand is class hasn’t been in question. An area of his game that doesn’t receive the necessary praise is his net play. The point was set up nicely by a forehand cross court although the smash volley wasn’t the easiest because of the height Sinner got on the backhand. Sinner edged out the first set more or less because the second serve accuracy wasn’t all there from Tsitsipas, just on the right side of 50%. Check out 4-4(30-40) break point. That nonchalant serve was too central and had no purchase on it to trouble the Italian. That’s the pressure a second serve puts on you, you be on double fault jeopardy such that you need a stronger return game to cover for a weak second serve. I believe that is Stefanos Achilles heel.

Stefanos’s telling stat for the match. No break point opportunities created. That is most telling because it shows how Stefanos was waiting for Sinner to make the mistake rather than go on the front foot especially when he got to 0-30,15-30 or 30-30 on the Italian’s racquet. Yes, in tennis there are two types of player, the timid ones are content with avoiding mistakes on their own , playing safe returns and hope for the unforced. The aggressive ones the Rogers and Djokovics attack almost from the off. Check out first point 0-30 Sinner on the Tsitsipas racquet. Stefanos heeds the aggression call by attacking the net but the lob was as close to perfection from Sinner as you can get. Point of the match, 2-1 Sinner (15-0). Sinner clearly targeting the backhand side of Stefanos the Italian having done his homework. The Greek’s backhand has improved in recent years(although there are areas of improvement especially footwork), what cost him the point here is his poor net coverage. He didn’t go central instead anticipating another return to the backhand side. Yes, the best man won this match no doubt. Jannik will face backhand master Stan Wawrinka in the last 8 today in another humdinger of a match in Rotterdam. The tournament keeps them coming.

UFC 284:MAKHACHEV VS VOLKANOVSKI

Nice to see the UFC down under for a change. The main event was magnificent to watch. Home arena advantage for Aussie Alex Volkanovski couldn’t push him to victory over the reigning Lightweight champ Islam Makhachev. Alex is also a featherweight UFC champ this made a fascinating contest, champ vs champ. A fight too close to call? Not necessarily. The fact that the judges saw it as a win for Islam after he was outpunched by an over 11% margin shows that judges were putting undue weight on takedowns. The bias stems from the fact that Volk didn’t have a single one all fight. I would like to think judges are former fighters as such they had their own style of fighting. I am willing to bet all of them were grapplers in their hey day. Apportioning appropriate weight to the moves is the best way to judge a fight. Volk countered the takedown attempts quite admirably from my point of view. Check out the first round , Alex spread his legs to get low center of gravity, getting close to the fence just in case Islam manages to get enough power.

Let’s face it anything that involves someone judging a performance, be it Idol, figure skating or MMA has an element of favoritism that the judge puts on that decision, especially in a close fight as this. Here is the scorecard as it was. White judge scored it 48-47, Green Judge 49-46, Yellow 48-47. Let’s focus on the Green judge who had the highest margin of victory for Islam. I must say it would be unfair to heap him with all the criticism when the other judges also gave it to Islam. What did Green judge see in round 3 that other judges didn’t see? He saw a weak round from Volk in the sense of a failed takedown attempt and failing to land any significant blows. Check out at 02:37 left, Volk was stuck on the fence for close to a minute under the waist from Islam before Alex countered with punches. It is funny no one is talking about the first two rounds which were scored unanimously against the Aussie which is were he lost the fight. It is a message to him to improve his arsenal, to work on the mat skills , work on getting the TKO not just land punches and hope for a decision.