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.

INDIAN WELLS:NORRIE VS DIMITROV

British 14th ranked Cam Norrie looking to reach his first ever ATP 1000 final when he faced Dimitrov of Bulgaria. The path to the final cleared by the top seeds such as Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev falling by the wayside during the week. Early breaks of serve in each set was key for Norrie. Statistically , the guy serving first in the set has the advantage, but the advantage only counts if he holds serve imperatively. Grigor didn’t do that. The backhand was the weapon of choice for Norrie, unusually so for a lefty. Watch 2-0(40-30), the change of pace like a flip of a switch with that deep backhand to the corner turning the rally in his favor. The unforced errors Grigor committed in this match were not doing him any favors. Having done all the hard work to get the break back to pull score to 4-2, he handed it straight back to the Brit in poor fashion. Check out 40-30 Norrie. First set professionally and quickly done by Norrie wrapping it up in 7 games.

Grigor lost serve again but at least he went down fighting taking the first game of the second set to deuce. But again the unforced error on the second advantage Norrie which did him in again. It wasn’t as if the Bulgarian was bad in this match, not by a long shot. His very best came from net plays, check out 1-0(40-30). The backhand slice making it all happen. Here comes the point of the match. Norrie up 3-2 and 40-30. Normally a lefty hitting the forehand cross court as good as Norrie’s execution spells point over for the opponent. Not Grigor, stretching to get to the ball made the forehand difficult to pull off but he did. Sadly he failed to break the Norrie serve and that was it for him. Norrie now in with a shot at making the season ending ATP Finals with a win in the final which will see him break into the top 10. This is his 6th final of the year tying him with Djokovic and that says a lot.

PREMIER LEAGUE: LEICESTER CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED

Watching this one made me realize why United manager Solskjaer plays with two holding midfield men. Absolutely no protection whatsoever for that back line at the King Power. Pogba couldn’t complete a string of forward passes, was really bad at tackling in fact he was almost Paul Scholes bad. How good is Greenwood? He had the most shots at goal up until he was substituted. Why was he substituted then? In as much as we would like to scrutinize United, the foxes deserve due credit. Particularly Tielemans who was not goal shy at all. In terms of shots at goal , most of his shots may not have been in target but his positive play yielded the sublime goal in the first half. This game may have also come too soon for Maguire. He was way off the pace of the game.

We also saw the good and the bad of Victor Lindelof. The center back who started in place of the injured Varane, passed quarterback style to Rashford for the second United goal. That is his strength in ball distributing. In a matter of a minute his bad showed up , his positioning in the box poor leaving Vardy to volley home for 3-2. The truth is playing two holding man isn’t a bad strategy for the Red Devils but Ole hasn’t figured out yet which the are the best matches to employ it. It works against the bigger teams like here but certainly not again the likes of Norwich. On the talismanic Ronaldo now. It is said by experts that when a striker hits 27 years of age , the decline starts. So Ronaldo’s decline probably started at Real Madrid in 2012. The idea now is to slow the decline as much as possible. In this match we could see that Ronaldo covered very little ground in terms of running. But he is still capable of a moment of magic just like Pogba so that’s probably why the manager keeps them on.

To the gongs now. Best player for Leicester would have to be Soumare. The Frenchman was boss in midfield in terms of balls won there keeping United on the blackfoot for most of times. For United it will have to be 20 year old Mason Greenwood who I mentioned earlier. United need to move away from being a counter attacking side against everyone in the division to the one that controls the match via the midfield. They need someone who stamps authority in games there. I am not so sure now if they have such a player.

INDIAN WELLS:AZARENKA VS OSTAPENKO

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka is still going strong at Indian Wells. She faced former French Open Champ Jelena Ostapenko in the last 4 in Carli. Victoria rolling back the glory years especially in the last set. A total of 21 break point opportunities tell the story of two players not exactly at the top of their game. The one to utilize the chances was going to end up the winner. Who started off the strongest? Jelena did. Check her out attacking the first serve 1-0(15-40) to seize early control of the set. Don’t think Jelena meant it but the backhand winner was more of a defensive return than a winner but they all count. Key? Placement. Although Victoria was serving at a decent 60% she wasn’t putting much power into the serves allowing Jelena the direct winners from them. Case in point? 3-2(0-40), she won’t get much easier breaks of serve will Jelena. Ostapenko’s advantage will remain until she closed out the set 6-3.

Who started the second set the brightest? Jelena attacking the serve again from the get go, watch advantage on deuce very first game on Azarenka’s serve. It could be overconfidence or otherwise but from 2-1 up Ostapenko began to wain. For me it was a combination of Azarenka’s hitting getting better. Check out the unforced error at 5-3(adv on deuce) set point Azarenka. Victoria made sure to hit the right areas which is to keep Ostapenko on her toes on the baseline, the error wasn’t a lucky turn for the Belarussian. It was well earned.

To break our pattern who started the third set well? It was Victoria’s turn to attack the serve first game at 30-40 down. It was a crucial game in which Azarenka ended up breaking serve. Impressive backhand winners in the last set from both players. The twists of the back and forth match was at 3-3. Check out the break point at 40-30 in favor of Azarenka. The backhand by Jelena ticked the boxes, control, racquet face open with the swing of hip. Despite a spirited fight the Latvian would lose serve on 5-5 and never came back into this one. The type of shots like at 30-40 there were popping up at same rate as the sublime winners. That inconsistency cost Jelena the match. Azarenka will now face Paula Badosa of Spain in the final after Badosa ended Ons Jabeur’s run in straight sets.

NFL:BUCCANEERS VS EAGLES

Tom Brady inspiring Tampa Bay at Lincoln Financial Field Stadium. This one of the sixth round of matches in the regular season. Brady threw 297 yards and had 34 caught throws out of 42. That is a rate of 80% more than the benchmark of a half. So yes Tom is still that good. Check out the first TD for Howard. Brady not only as a knack for the deep pass into the EZ he is patient to wait for the open player. The first half certainly was all TB with the Eagles’s last quarter certainly their best. Their quarter back J.Hurts had 115 yards which didn’t make 200 and only had a poor 12/26 on throws.

They however were better defensively in that second half spearheaded by Alex Singleton with 8 tackles and 7 assists. Their best TD play was at 28-7 with Hurts himself going alone all the way to the EZ. So it wasn’t all bad for Jalen. Here he sees a crack in the defense with the Buccaneers concentrating on stopping receivers such as Watkins(44 yards ran). Watkins’s figures were dwarfed by Tampa Bay’s 93 yards and 9 received passes. There is no need to point out where Philadelphia needs to improve for their next game.Eagles remain third in the NFC East division whilst the Bucs top NFC South with an impressive start of 5 wins in 6.

KYRIE IRVING’S VACCINE STANCE DISSECTED

My fears are being realized here. One of the NBA’s most talented players is now on ice because of some rule that in all sense and purposes is against the constitution. Irving’s team the Brooklyn Nets by virtue of them being based in New York falls under the city’s health protocols. Those protocols dictate that all sports teams can only play once all their staff and players are vaccinated. Kyrie opted not to be vaccinated for personal reasons which he explained in detail without any disrespect to the authorities or his team. What is flabbergasting me the most here is the Nets’s treatment of Irving. I mean what does it mean for them coming out in the open and criticizing him in such a very public manner. This doesn’t sit well with me given the service that Kyrie has given to American Basketball for a decade now.

The statement reads as follows and note that some words may have been removed. “Irving is not allowed to participate with the team, citing a desire to build chemistry and “remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice” ,Irving “will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Here is where I have an issue with the Nets. When they say they have values of togetherness yet they are sidelining someone because of their beliefs it smacks of hypocrisy. By not allowing him to train under their brand effectively kills off his careers and sponsors. The very least the Nets could have done was to let him train on his own and play the road games. They might as well have just fired him.

Interesting to note that one player has changed his mind about the vaccine though. Golden State guard Andrew Wiggins had his religious exemption application dismissed by the NBA, only to get the jab anyway. This goes to show that if you make a man choose between his livelihood and his beliefs he is bound to go for his livelihood. If that is what they want I am beginning to think what Candace Owens describes as “tyranny” is actually happening in that country. People need to be taught of the benefits of the vaccine not having it forced on them. Such negative reinforcement(taking away a guy’s job) will only inspire further rebellion and everyone ends up the loser(the fans, the NBA, the player and the team). I am glad though Kyrie hasn’t given up entirely on his career. Who knows things might change or he could play abroad?

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