Thursday, December 6, 2012

Top 10 Sporting Events over the Holidays

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

December is now upon us, and as families prepare to gather around tables laden with turkey, cranberries and chocolate, there are some (like me) who are looking forward to the sporting spectacles that take place over the holiday season.

Whatever your sport, whatever your passion, here is a list of the top ten events to keep your eye out for. So buy a ticket, settle down in front of the TV or set your DVR to record. Enjoy!
December 9 – Soccer
Manchester City vs. Manchester United – 8:30am EST
The first on our list is the Manchester Derby this Sunday. Just three points separates the two teams from the top of the EPL, with the red half of the city currently with the advantage. City vs. United has historically provided viewers with some astonishing games, and with 65 goals scored between them already this season, this promises to be a must-watch-match. Will RVP and Rooney win over Aguero and Balotelli? Or will it be a Blue Moon this Christmas?

December 16 – Soccer
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid – 3pm EST
Usually it is Barcelona against Real Madrid which brings great excitement in the La Liga calendar, but this season, Atletico are flying. Second in the table – thanks to the 11 goals from striking sensation Radamel Falcao – this game looks to be a cracker. Atletico may not have the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi, but Diego Simeone’s men could look to close the gap on the leaders. But will La Liga be flying the flag of Los Rojiblancos or Blaugranes come December 16?

December 17 – Basketball
Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks – 7:30pm EST
Linsatiny returns to Madison Square Gardens on December 17 (rather apt considering Jeremy Lin’s old number) and Knicks fans will be looking to give last year’s sensation a welcome he will never forget. Whether it will be warm or not remains to be seen. Lin currently leads the Rockets’ assists per game and is proving not to be a one-season-wonder. But will the Knicks show their authority on their home court, or will Lin come back to bite them? Whatever happens, you will want to have all eyes on the MSG that night.

December 22 – Hockey
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers – 7pm EST
The NHL lockout is still in process, but there is a glimmer of hope that the NHL and NHLPA can reach an agreement by December 15, meaning the first round of games could (I repeat, could), be played on December 22. To be honest, hockey fans will be excited to see any hockey right about now. But the game that stands out is New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers. The Devils surprisingly beat the Rangers last season in the playoffs, and the team from New York will be looking to get even.

December 25 – Basketball
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat – 5:30pm EST
Thunder at Heat sees a re-match of the 2012 Finals, where Miami defeated OKC 4-1 to win their second NBA title. With both teams currently going strong, this Christmas Day meet will be fiery, with Kevin Durrant looking to lead the charge to avenge his team’s loss last season. But LeBron James will be unlikely to back down, and will be looking to put in a performance worthy of his Sportsman of the Year Award he received from Sports Illustrated this week.

December 30 – Football
Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys – 1pm EST
The NFL Regular Season comes to a head at the end of the month, and there is one game in particular that could have the entire nation watching. The NFC East is hotting up, with the NY Giants currently leading the way. However the Washington Redskins are making a charge for the playoffs after beating both rivals: Giants and Dallas Cowboys, in recent weeks. December 30th sees RGIII meet Tony Romo in what could well be the biggest battle in 2012 Football.

January 4 – Golf
Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Tee-off time TBC
The first PGA Tour event is the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where qualification requires golfers to have won a tour during the past season. Held in Hawaii, the Tournament of Champions boasts high class winners including Steve Stricker in 2012, as well as Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods in the last 20 years. But who will take the first title of 2013 home? Find out between January 4–7.

January 5 – Soccer
FA Cup – From 7:30am EST
The magic of the cup returns after the New Year, and this is the round where soccer giants can be slain by the minnows. It’s the only competition where you get to see highly-paid professionals against bankers, builders and barmen, and these match-ups can sometimes be more exciting than the Premier League. Here are a few standout games that could spell trouble for the big boys: Crawley Town v Reading, Leicester v Burton Albion and either Lincoln or Mansfield v Liverpool. Keep an eye on your TV Guide!

January 5 – Football
NFL Playoffs – Times TBC
Shortly after the regular season ends, the playoffs begin. The New England Patriots, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons have all clinched a wild card spot or division title already. So the question now is: who will join them, and who will be in contention for the Superbowl XLVII?

January 14 – Tennis
ATP Australian Open – 7pm EST
Okay, so technically outside of the “holiday season” remit, the first Grand Slam of the tennis year starts on January 14 in Melbourne. The Australian Open marks the beginning of the ATP calendar year, and Victoria Azarenka will be looking to keep her number one status intact, after claiming top spot thanks to her victory in the Australian Open in 2012. In the men's tournament, Novak Djokovic will be looking to make it three consecutive wins out of three down under. However with Rafael Nadal returning from injury in 2013, the Spaniard will be looking to even the score after last year’s loss.

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