The Week-End Preview: 19th-20th Janaury

It feels like a good time to post the inaugural edition of the week-end preview, for two reasons. Firstly, sport is thickly ingrained in the social conscious at this moment in time; Lance Armstrong’s confession in an interview with Oprah Winfrey left everyone’s blood boiling. Secondly, for arm chair sport fans in the UK, snow falling across the country has provided the perfect excuse to stay indoors and concentrate on the weekend’s sporting action. This Friday’s edition of The Week-End preview looks ahead to grand slam tennis down under and the Premier Leagues most high profile fixture of the week; derby day at Stamford Bridge as Arsenal take on Chelsea.

Saturday: Australian Open Tennis- Tomic vs Federer (Third Round) Starts 7pm Australian Time

A new year for ardent tennis fans is synonymous with one tournament, the Australian Open. The tennis calendar from January to November is held together by the four grand slams or majors that capture the imagination of casual and hardcore fans alike. The first of these 4 grand slams got under way on Monday in Melbourne Australia quite literally sending a ray of sunshine onto our TV screens. Once you begin moving into the second week of a grand slam the formalities are over and the gloves come off. Serious match ups between top class players begin to materialise. Tomorrow’s fascinating inter-generational third rounder is well worth watching.

Tomic vs Federer at the Australian Open haven’t we been here before? Whilst the answer is yes, the circumstances surrounding the match-up this time are distinctly different. The 2012 edition of the Australian Open saw Tomic enter a fourth round meeting with Federer riding a wave of home nation support in Melbourne before falling to the man many call the greatest player of all time. The scoreline was a straightforward 6-4,6-2,6-2 victory for Federer. That run was arguably the highlight of the young Australian’s year. From then on he went from hero to zero; the most celebrated young talent in tennis to a much maligned character. He was chastised for his lack of commitment and even accused by tennis legend John McEnroe of “tanking” (losing a match on purpose). Entering 2013 it was safe to say all the cognoscenti believed the wind had been taken out of the 20 year old’s sails. He has responded to his critics emphatically; winning seven matches in a row, including a victory over the world number one Novak Djokovic. This weekend Tomic enters a showdown with Federer in much better stead. He is mentally tougher, a more seasoned competitor with the ability to put forth a better effort against the Swiss maestro. Could we  dare think the unthinkable and expect a Tomic victory? Well, it’s less unthinkable than last time.

Sunday: Premier League Football – Chelsea vs Arsenal, Kick Off: 1:30 PM

The hallmarks of recent Arsenal and Chelsea fixtures have been lacklustre performances and disgruntled fans. As with all derbys this is a huge game for fans and players alike. Both teams’  recent league form has been indifferent; Chelsea squandered a 2 goal lead at mid-week against minnows Southampton whilst a 10 man Arsenal were comfortably beaten on Sunday by champions Manchester City. A key component in the Gunners’ play of late has been the sterling performances of Jack Wilshere. The 21 year old England international has been dynamite. A pair of determined displays against City and Swansea suggest he is back to his best following his extended injury lay-off due to an aggravated stress fracture in his ankle. If so, expect him to to run the show in the middle of the park in Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and their creative attacking trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard. The Blues tendency under Rafa Benititez is to play poorly at home whilst Arsenal have ever present defensive liabilities. This combined with the need for both sides to grab all three points provides the combustible elements that should make for a cracking game. If last year’s 5-2 win away win by Arsenal is anything to go by then sparks could fly at the bridge on Sunday.

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