2018 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a third-straight victory for Marc Márquez, and a race where three of his main rivals (Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone, and Andrea Dovizioso) all came tumbling down in Le Mans, the grid heads to Italy, and to a heartland of motorcycle racing in Italy, and to arguably the most enjoyable and exciting circuit on the MotoGP calendar, Mugello, for Round Six of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (95 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 36 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Maverick Viñales (59 points) in a season which could have been a whole lot worse for the rivals of the current championship leader and four-time MotoGP World Champion.

In Qatar, Márquez, despite having the better bike through the corners, had to settle for second-place after being unable to pass the slippery Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, while in Argentina, he almost won the race twice over before a third penalty sent Márquez all the way back in the field to finish 18th after crossing the line in fifth-place after the first two penalties.

After this, Márquez was dominant as he always has been at the Circuit of the Americas to take his sixth victory in as many races in Austin, before dominating at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, before winning comfortably in the end at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.

Meanwhile, it has been much harder for Maverick Viñales on his Yamaha, with only one podium, which was a second-place finish behind the current championship leader in Austin, and only one other top five finish in a season where Yamaha have really struggled to match their competitors for outright speed.

To be quite honest, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) and Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi (56 points), who sit in third and fourth in the world championship respectively, have been in better form than Viñales, but have had one non-scoring finish each compared to Viñales who has finished every race in the points so far.

Yamaha must find their top form quickly otherwise Márquez could run away with the championship.

However, the story of the season so far has been the two riders from Alma Pramac Racing in Danilo Petrucci (54 points) and Jack Miller (49 points), who are fifth and sixth in the championship respectively. Petrucci has been superb in riding this year’s Ducati, finishing all five races, four of them in the top 10, and three of them in the top five, claiming a podium last time out in France, while Miller, who has been riding last year’s Ducati, has arguably been even better with five top 10 finishes, with a best finish of fourth in Argentina, where he started from pole position, as well as fourth-place finish last time out in France.

Andrea Iannone (47 points) sits in seventh position in the world championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after missing out on a possible third-successive podium finish after crashing out at Le Mans, but the speed from the factory Suzuki is certainly encouraging to challenge perhaps for a top three finish in the championship.

Cal Crutchlow (46 points) is eighth in the championship for LCR Honda, but has struggled since winning in Argentina, suffering crashes in the race in Austin and Jerez, as well as a massive crash in qualifying in France, which left him sore and sorry before the race, a race where he fought hard to finish in eighth, but he has got to learn to stay on the bike if he wants to be a strong championship contender in the future.

Andrea Dovizioso (46 points) is ninth in the championship for the Ducati Team after two-successive retirements in Jerez and Le Mans, the first time that has happened for Dovizioso since retiring from three-straight races in 2016, and with his championship hopes in tatters, must hit back at Mugello, a track predicted to be a strong one for Ducati, if he harbours any hope of catching Márquez in the championship.

While Dani Pedrosa (29 points), the teammate of Márquez, is 10th in the championship after a start to the season affected by injury, and he, along with Álex Rins (22 points), the teammate of Andrea Iannone, and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (16 points), will believe they can get into the battle behind Márquez for second in the championship.

However, before I get to my predictions for the Italian Grand Prix, I want to say a few words about Lorenzo, and his inability to find success on the Ducati.

Lorenzo must realise and understand that how hard you inherently push the tyres doesn’t change whether you are on a Yamaha, or whether you are on a Ducati, and he must change his thought process on this immediately!

It is not Formula One, where the car characteristics usually dominate who is good and bad at managing their tyres, it is MotoGP, and the riders always have more of a say as to whether their tyres last in a race, and riders who have been historically harder on their tyres have usually used harder tyres!

Lorenzo must stop trying to find a direction on what tyres to use from Dovizioso, who has always been kinder to his tyres, and start going for tyre choices generally a step harder than what he has been! It is not rocket science, and if he does that, Lorenzo might suddenly find much greater success on a Ducati!

However, will he listen to people like me saying this, or will he keep on listening to his team, who are simply running out of ideas and following the opposition because they are?

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure is that Marc Márquez, despite his lack of success at Mugello, with his only win there in the premier class coming back in 2014, the sixth win of his 10-race winning streak at the start of 2014, in a gripping battle with Jorge Lorenzo, and if Lorenzo and Ducati take heed of my advice, it might be another titanic struggle!

However, other than Márquez making a mistake, I can see only the straight-line speed and power of the Ducati stopping the Spaniard from a fourth win in a row, and right now, I can see Márquez potentially winning all of the remaining races in 2018, and as I said earlier, it could have been a whole lot worse for his rivals!

2018 Roland Garros Preview – Men’s Singles

After a clay court season where one man, that man, has dominated, winning 17 of his 18 matches on-route to claiming his 11th title in Monte-Carlo, his 11th title in Barcelona, and his eighth title in Rome, with his only blemish being a loss in the quarter-finals in Madrid to Dominic Thiem.

And with his great rival in Roger Federer sitting out the clay court season for a second-straight year, can anyone stop Rafael Nadal from claiming an astonishing 11th title at Roland Garros, and a 17th Grand Slam title overall to move to within three of Federer’s record of 20?

So, let’s have a look at the men’s singles draw for Roland Garros 2018!

Section one

Of course this section of the draw features Nadal, who needs to defend his crown to retain the No.1 ranking, and while there are a couple of potential dangers that at their best could give Nadal trouble, most notably Denis Shapovalov, who made the semi-finals in Madrid, and perhaps Jack Sock, who has had a poor start to the year with just five wins from 15 matches. However, I cannot see either of them, let alone anyone else in this draw defeating him this year at Roland Garros.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (24) Denis Shapovalov

 

Section two

Section Two is a wide-open section featuring Diego Schwartzman, Borna Ćorić, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Feliciano López, who will equal Roger Federer’s record of 65-consecutive Grand Slam appearances, and Kevin Anderson, who are all capable of going deep here, but none of whom have reached the quarter-finals before at Roland Garros, with the best results being fourth rounds from Kohlschreiber (2009, 2013), López (2004), and Anderson (2014, 2015, 2017)!

However, in terms of form, Schwartzman (18 wins from 30 matches) and Anderson (20 wins from 28 matches) are clearly to two most in-form players in 2018 from this section, and without any truly obvious selections, one of these two will meet Nadal in the quarter-finals!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (11) Diego Schwartzman vs. (6) Kevin Anderson

 

Section three

This section of the draw is also an interesting section, but one that contains a clear three standouts in Marin Čilić, who made the quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo and the semi-finals in Rome, Fabio Fognini, who made the quarter-finals in Rome, and Kyle Edmund, who made the quarter-finals in Madrid, as well as the final in Marrakesh, and the quarter-finals in Estoril before that.

While I expect Čilić to make the fourth round, it will be a tough third round battle to decide who will meet him in the round of 16, one that the Italian will be favoured to win over the Brit.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Marin Čilić vs. (18) Fabio Fognini

 

Section four

If Juan Martín del Potro is fit and healthy, he can go deep into this French Open, but has only played four matches during the clay court season as he struggles to overcome a groin injury, but as long as he is right, he will at least make the fourth round where he will meet either John Isner, who made the quarter-finals in Madrid, or Tomáš Berdych, who lost in the first round in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, and Rome, but is capable of producing on the big stage.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (9) John Isner vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

 

Section five

In section five of the draw, David Goffin is the clear favourite to at least make the fourth round, if not the quarter-finals, after quarter-final appearances in Monte-Carlo and Rome, as well as making the semi-finals in Barcelona, but who he could meet in the fourth round is an interesting prospect! He could meet either Nick Kyrgios, who hasn’t played for over a month as he attempts to overcome an elbow injury, but is capable of finding form at short notice, or Pablo Carreño Busta, who made the semi-finals in Barcelona, as well as in Estoril, and looks to be in good form!

Kyrgios will face fellow Australian Bernard Tomic in the opening round in what could be an encounter full of tension!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) David Goffin vs. (10) Pablo Carreño Busta

 

Section six

Section six contains the 2016 champion Novak Djokovic, who seems to be finding some form after a poor start to the season in his troubles from coming back from an elbow injury (10 wins from 17 matches) after making the semi-finals in Madrid, but faces a tough draw here, potentially facing David Ferrer in the second round, Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round, and Grigor Dimitrov or Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round, but in saying that, other than Dimitrov, who made the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo and the quarter-finals in Barcelona, looks the most in-form player here!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (20) Novak Djokovic vs. (4) Grigor Dimitrov

 

Section seven

Dominic Thiem is in this section of the draw, the only man to defeat Nadal during this clay court season, and has made the semi-finals here for the last two years, but while he is the favoured player in this section, he faces a tough second round match-up with the Greek teenage sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the final in Barcelona, and the semi-finals in Estoril, before he can make a smooth passage through to the fourth round to probably face Kei Nishikori, who made the final in Monte-Carlo, and the quarter-finals in Rome on his comeback from a wrist injury suffered before the US Open last year.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (7) Dominic Thiem vs. (19) Kei Nishikori

 

Section eight

The 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka is in this section of the draw, but comes into the French Open in such poor form (three wins from eight matches), and his first round loss in Rome was his first match in just under three months in his struggles to overcome his knee problems.

The only player I can trust in this section is Alexander Zverev, who has been in amazing form, winning in Munich and Madrid, but also making the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo, and the final in Rome off the back in winning in Madrid. In my view, Zverev is the only player I truly believe can trouble (or beat) Nadal this year at Roland Garros!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (15) Lucas Pouille vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (11) Diego Schwartzman

(3) Marin Čilić vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

(8) David Goffin vs. (20) Novak Djokovic

(7) Dominic Thiem vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (5) Juan Martín del Potro

(8) David Goffin vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. (2) Alexander Zverev

 

My predicted 2018 Roland Garros champion

(1) Rafael Nadal

2018 Roland Garros Preview – Women’s Singles

In a clay court season that has been wide open, we head now to Roland Garros for the 2018 French Open with a wide open field of contenders for the title, looking to knock defending champion Jeļena Ostapenko, who won her first career title here last year against Simona Halep, off her perch!

In addition to this, six players (Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbiñe Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Karolína Plíšková and Caroline Garcia) are in contention to either retain or gain the world No.1 ranking by the end of the championship.

So, who will win at Roland Garros in 2018? Let’s have a look at the women’s singles draw!

Section one

Section One contains last year’s finalist and the No.1 seed Simona Halep, and given her consistent form, quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Madrid, as well as making the final in Rome, she is certainly the one to beat in this section, and will most likely meet either Daria Gavrilova or Elise Mertens in the fourth round.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (1) Simona Halep vs. (24) Daria Gavrilova

 

Section two

Caroline Garcia has been arguably the most consistent player during the clay-court season, making the semi-finals in both Stuttgart and Madrid, as well as the quarter-finals in Rome, and should make it through to the fourth round for a likely meeting with Angelique Kerber, despite Kerber going out of the opening round at Roland Garros the last two years!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (12) Angelique Kerber vs. (7) Caroline Garcia

 

Section three

Garbiñe Muguruza has struggled for form during the clay-court season (two wins from four matches), but I can’t see anyone stopping her from making the fourth round where she will likely meet CoCo Vandeweghe, who made the final in Stuttgart, and is capable of doing some damage if she gets on a roll!

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (15) CoCo Vandeweghe

 

Section four

This is a really interesting section with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams returning to play her first grand slam after the birth of her first child, five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova continuing her redemption story from a drugs suspension, and with other standout players in Karolína Plíšková, Ashleigh Barty, and Julia Görges.

Both Sharapova and Plíšková should meet in the third round in what will be a blockbuster match-up, and while I respect her record, I don’t think Williams is in good shape at the moment, and I think either Barty or Görges will meet either Sharapova or Plíšková in the fourth round.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (17) Ashleigh Barty vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

 

Section five

The defending champion Jeļena Ostapenko is in this section of the draw, and after making the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Rome, looks like a strong tip to go through to the fourth round after a difficult second round match against two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.

Johanna Konta is also in this section of the draw, along with seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, with the winner of their third round encounter to meet the defending champion in the round of 16.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (5) Jeļena Ostapenko vs. (9) Venus Williams

 

Section six

After making the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and winning in Rome, Elina Svitolina is a strong chance of going deep at Roland Garros, and will likely meet either Madison Keys, who won two matches in Rome, or Naomi Osaka, who won a match in Rome, in the fourth round.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (13) Madison Keys vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

 

Section seven

Petra Kvitová has been in strong form during the clay-court season, winning in Prague and Madrid, and while she isn’t renowned for being strong on clay, making the semi-finals at Roland Garros just once (2012), you sense she has the right draw to go deep here, and will likely face last year’s US Open champion Sloane Stephens, or Anastasija Sevastova in the round of 16.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (8) Petra Kvitová vs. (10) Sloane Stephens

 

Section eight

The 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is the strongest player in the final section of the draw, and despite some underwhelming performances during the clay-court season, with best results being quarter-finals in Istanbul and Rome, I think she can go deep at Roland Garros, where she has made the quarter-finals twice (2010, 2017).

Wozniacki will likely meet either Russian youngster Daria Kasatkina, or Spanish veteran Carla Suárez Navarro, who both made the quarter-finals in Madrid.

 

My predicted fourth round match-up: (14) Daria Kasatkina vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted quarter-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (7) Caroline Garcia

(3) Garbiñe Muguruza vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

(5) Jeļena Ostapenko vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

(8) Petra Kvitová vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted semi-final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (28) Maria Sharapova

(4) Elina Svitolina vs. (2) Caroline Wozniacki

 

My predicted final match-ups

(1) Simona Halep vs. (4) Elina Svitolina

 

My predicted 2018 Roland Garros champion

(1) Simona Halep

2018 UEFA Champions League Final – Preview

At 9:45pm on a Saturday night (4:45am Sunday morning AEST) at the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, the final of the world’s premier club competition takes place. It is of course the 2018 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League Final between Real Madrid C.F., who are looking not only to win their 13th European crown, but to also become the first club since FC Bayern Munich in 1976 to win the European Cup on three-straight occasions, and the first team in the UEFA Champions League era (since the start of 1992/93) to do so, and Liverpool F.C., who are in their first Champions League final since 2007, looking to win their sixth European crown, and their first since 2005, when they came back from three goals down at half-time against A.C. Milan in Istanbul to take it to extra-time, and then penalties, where Jerzy Dudek was the hero, saving three penalties to give Liverpool European glory for the fifth time.

Real Madrid C.F. come into the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final after failing to win either the 2017-18 La Liga crown, in which they finished third, 17 points behind eventual champions F.C. Barcelona, and three points behind cross-city rival Atlético Madrid, or the 2017-18 Copa del Rey, where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by CD Leganés, a team which finished one place, but 14 points above the relegation zone in La Liga, over two legs on away goals (2-2). And despite winning the UEFA Super Cup for the third time in four years, the Supercopa de España, and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Club World Cup for the third time in four years, you sense that Real Madrid C.F. must win the UEFA Champions League title for the third-straight time if Zinedine Zidane is to keep his position as coach at arguably the world’s biggest and most prestigious club! And, that is a scary thought in so many ways.

Liverpool F.C. come into the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final after finishing fourth for the second season in a row in the English Premier League, but went out in the third round of the English Football League (EFL) Cup at the hands of Leicester City (2-0), and in the fourth round of the Football Association (FA) Cup at the hands of West Bromwich Albion (3-2), but have had a great run in the Champions League under Jürgen Klopp, who of course took Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium in London, where they lost to FC Bayern Munich. Regardless of the result in the final, Liverpool F.C. are certainly on their way back up to the top of European club football!

Looking at their runs to the final in Kiev, Real Madrid C.F. finished second in Group H behind Tottenham Hotspur on 13 points after winning four of their six group matches, defeating Borussia Dortmund and APOEL FC both home and away, while having a draw at home and a loss away from home against Tottenham Hotspur. And while they had a comfortable time of disposing of Paris Saint Germain F.C. (5-2 on aggregate), Real Madrid C.F. had a much tougher time in the quarter-finals against the team they played in the 2017 final, Juventus F.C.!

After winning the first leg away from home 3-0 thanks to a double from Cristiano Ronaldo, and a goal from Marcelo, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu proved way tougher than they had expected, with Juventus F.C. fighting back through a first half brace from Mario Mandžukić, and a goal with 29 minutes from Blaise Matuidi to equalise the scores on aggregate! Only a goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo saved Los Blancos from a potentially embarassing exit!

Then in the semi-finals against FC Bayern Munich, after a 2-1 victory in the first leg at the Allianz Arena with goals from Marcelo and Marco Asensio either side of half-time in response to a goal from Joshua Kimmich, the second leg back at home proved an even tougher affair with Kimmich scoring the first goal to level the scores on aggregate, but Los Blancos having the advantage by away goals, before Karim Benzema scored a crucial double to give Real Madrid C.F. a 4-2 lead on aggregate! James Rodríguez, who was on-loan from Real Madrid C.F, scored with 27 minutes left to give FC Bayern Munich a fighting chance. However, Zidane’s team of champions held on to book their spot in a third-successive final.

Looking at Liverpool F.C.’s run to the first final held in the Ukraine, the Reds finished on top of Group E ahead of Sevilla FC, FC Spartak Moscow, and NK Maribor with three wins and three draws, including 7-0 wins against NK Maribor away from home, and FC Spartak Moscow back at Anfield. And after disposing of FC Porto 5-0 at the Estádio do Dragão, and by the same score on aggregate, Liverpool F.C. met with English rivals Manchester City F.C. in the quarter-finals to produce a performance over two legs which stunned the footballing world!

The first leg at Anfield was a dominant 3-0 win with first half goals from Mohammed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mané, giving Manchester City F.C. a huge mountain to climb in the second leg, a mountain which looked possible thanks to an early goal from Gabriel Jesus. However, after Manchester City F.C. manager Pep Guardiola was sent off, and to the stands at half-time for dissent towards the officials, Liverpool F.C. snuffed out any chance of a comeback with goals from Salah and Roberto Firmino to complete a remarkable 5-1 win on aggregate, and move through to the semi-finals to face A.S. Roma.

The first leg was at home again for the Reds, and they duly took advantage with five goals in the first 69 minutes, a first half double from Salah, a goal in the 56th minute from Mané, and then a brace completed in the space of eight minutes by Firmino to give themselves a huge advantage. However, two crucial away goals from Edin Džeko and Diego Perotti cut the margin to three heading into the second leg. At the Stadio Olimpico, Liverpool F.C. had a 2-1 at half-time on the night (7-3 on aggregate) with goals from Mané and Georginio Wijnaldum book-ending a own goal by James Milner giving the Reds a close to insurmountable lead! However, A.S. Roma had their own plans, with a goal from Džeko giving them some hope, but despite a late double from Radja Nainggolan, it was too little, too late for A.S. Roma as Liverpool F.C. booked their return to European club football’s biggest showpiece!

Looking at the key players for the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final, despite all of their high-profile stars, Real Madrid C.F. will be looking once again for Cristiano Ronaldo to stamp his mark on the big stage once again in his sixth UEFA Champions League final (two with Manchester United F.C., and four with Real Madrid C.F.), coming into the final as the competition’s leading goal-scorer with 15 goals, and has scored four goals in his previous five finals! However, the Reds will look to defeat a team of champions with a effort defining a champion team, with Mohamed Salah (10 goals and four assists), Roberto Firmino (10 goals and eight assists), Sadio Mané (nine goals), and James Milner (nine assists) all starring for Liverpool F.C. in their 2017-18 UEFA Champions League campaign!

So, who am I predicting to win?

I look at Real Madrid C.F. and their record, and you know that Los Blancos are a big match team, and one that you would expect to win given the situation and the circumstances surrounding such an occasion, but my gut feel tells me somehow, some way, Liverpool F.C. are going to do it! Real Madrid C.F. have not lost a European Cup final since 1981, winning the last six finals they have made, but I sense that the Reds are going to do it, and cause one of the greatest upsets in the history of football!

 

 

2018 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview

After a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where Hamilton claimed his 64th career victory, his 41st victory from pole position, which surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record for most wins from pole position in Formula One, and his 30th consecutive points finish, becoming the first driver to finish 30-straight races inside the points positions in Formula One, we head to a place where Mercedes and Hamilton had difficulty last year, Monaco!

Hamilton (95 points) leads the world championship by 17 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (78 points) heading to the streets of the principality, where Vettel and Ferrari were so strong last year! However, Ferrari struggled for speed in Spain, with Vettel finishing in fourth, 27.584 seconds behind Hamilton.

Third in the championship is Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (58 points), 37 points behind Hamilton after helping Mercedes to a one-two finish at the Spanish Grand Prix, but was 20.593 seconds behind his teammate.

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (48 points) is fourth in the world championship, 47 points behind Hamilton despite his retirement from the Spanish Grand Prix due to a turbo failure, but has had strong, but ultimately unlucky season so far, but will be looking to turn this around in Monaco, where he started from pole position last year, ending his pole position drought which extended all the way back to the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo (47 points) is just a single point behind Räikkönen in fifth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer after a underwhelming drive in Spain, finishing fifth and last on the lead lap, 50.058 seconds behind the race winner Hamilton, but will be looking to be much stronger in Monaco, where he has finished on the podium in three of the last four years!

His teammate Max Verstappen (33 points) had a much better performance in Spain to rise up to sixth in the championship, claiming his first podium of the year after having a clean race, but was 26.873 seconds behind Hamilton, but like Ricciardo, should be more competitive in Monaco.

Just a point behind Verstappen is Fernando Alonso (32 points) for McLaren-Renault after a fifth-straight points finish to begin the season, finishing eighth at his home race in Spain, but a lap down as they attempt to find more pace to close in on their front-running rivals.

Nico Hülkenberg (22 points) is eighth in the championship for Renault, despite two retirements in a row, ahead of Kevin Magnussen (19 points) for Haas-Ferrari, and Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (19 points), who completes the top 10 in the championship.

Looking at the standings in the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (153 points) lead by 27 points over Ferrari (126 points) with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (80 points) in a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, there is a tight battle for fourth between Renault (41 points) and McLaren-Renault (40 points), with just a single point separating the two teams, with Haas-Ferrari (19 points), Force India-Mercedes (18 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (13 points), Sauber-Ferrari (11 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) completing the standings.

So, who will win in Monaco?

I think it is going to be a six-way fight between Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. While I think this year’s Mercedes is not the diva of last year, you sense that Red Bull have the strongest car for the streets of the principality, but the question is can they qualify at the front of the grid on a track where it is so hard to pass? Then you turn to Ferrari, who seem strong, but perhaps not as strong as last year, so it makes it so hard to pick a winner!

I think Ricciardo can win the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time, but it will be close if he does it!

 

 

My 2018 NRL commentary samples (Round 11 – Brisbane Broncos vs. Sydney Roosters)

 

And, in addition to my commentary of the game, I want to show you some photos of how I prepared for this game, the amount of note I prepared for the game, and how I set myself up to call this game, and the other games I have called! This displays to all of you how serious I am about chasing my dream!

Enjoy!

2018 FA Cup Final – Preview

On late Saturday afternoon London time (early Sunday morning Australian time), and in the aftermath of the royal wedding, the 2018 Football Association (FA) Cup final takes place at the home of football Wembley Stadium for the 12th FA Cup final at the modern Wembley in a re-match of the first FA Cup final played at the modern Wembley Stadium between Chelsea F.C., who are looking to win their eighth FA Cup, and their fifth at the modern Wembley, and Manchester United F.C., who are looking to equal Arsenal’s record of 13 FA Cup crowns on Saturday, but had only won one FA Cup at the modern Wembley.

Chelsea F.C. under Antonio Conte have had what has been a disappointing season by their standards, failing not only to defend their English Premier League crown, but also finished just outside of the top four in fifth to miss qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season. In their only season back in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea F.C. could only make it into the Round of 16, where they were defeated over two legs by FC Barcelona (4-1 on aggregate), but managed to make it to the English Football League (EFL) Cup semi-finals, where they were defeated by Arsenal F.C. over two legs (2-1 on aggregate), so this is Chelsea’s last opportunity to win a trophy this season after finishing runner-up in the FA Community Shield to Arsenal F.C. (1-1, 4-1 on penalties) before the start of the season.

The road to the final for Chelsea F.C began in the third round began with a 0-0 draw with Norwich City F.C. at Carrow Road, which resulted in a replay back at Stamford Bridge, and after a 1-1 draw after extra time, Chelsea F.C. won the penalty shootout (5-3) to secure their passage through to the fourth round. In the next two rounds, they defeated both Newcastle United F.C. (3-0) and Hull City A.F.C. (4-0) at Stamford Bridge to progress through to the quarter-finals, where they met Leicester City F.C. at the King Power Stadium.

After a goal from Álvaro Morata put Chelsea F.C 1-0 up after 42 minutes, Leicester City F.C. responded via a goal from Jamie Vardy with 14 minutes remaining to take the quarter-final tie into extra-time, where a goal by Pedro at the end of the first period of extra-time handed Chelsea F.C. a place in the FA Cup semi-finals against Southampton F.C. at Wembley Stadium. After a scoreless opening half, Chelsea F.C. took full control of the semi-final via goals from Olivier Giroud just after half-time, and Morata late on as a substitute for Giroud to book their spot on English football’s biggest day!

Manchester United F.C. under José Mourinho have had a strong season in the English Premier League, but finished 19 points behind their dominant cross-city rivals Manchester City F.C., who became the first team in the Premier League era to reach 100 points in a season. And after finishing runner up in the UEFA Super Cup to Real Madrid C.F. (2-1) at the start of the season, Manchester United F.C. haven’t come close to winning a trophy, being knocked out in the fifth round of the EFL Cup by Bristol City F.C. (2-1), and knocked out in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League by Sevilla FC (2-1 on aggregate).

Manchester United F.C. road to the final was relatively smooth, with a third round win at home (Old Trafford) against Derby County F.C. (2-0), a fourth round victory against Yeovil Town F.C. (4-0) at Huish Park, before heading to the Kirklees Stadium to claim a fifth round victory over Huddersfield Town A.F.C. (2-0) to move through to the quarter-finals, where they met Brighton and Hove Albion F.C. at Old Trafford.

It was a match where Romelu Lukaku scored his 11th goal in 12 FA Cup matches in the first half, before a goal late from Nemanja Matić secured Manchester United F.C. a spot in the semi-finals against Tottenham Hotspur F.C. at Wembley Stadium. However, after the first 11 minutes, Manchester United F.C. were trailing by a goal to nil after conceding their first goal of this season’s FA Cup after Dele Alli finished off a wonderful cross from Christian Eriksen, but responded 13 minutes thanks to a goal from Alexis Sánchez, before a goal midway through the second half by Ander Herrera allowed Manchester United F.C. to book their date with Chelsea F.C. in the 137th FA Cup final.

So, looking at the actual match-up between the two teams, the key players that Chelsea F.C will be looking to are Álvaro Morata, who has scored 15 goals in 47 matches across all competitions, Eden Hazard, who will play his 300th match for Chelsea F.C. on Saturday, has scored 16 goals in 50 matches across all competitions and will be looking to hit top form ahead of the World Cup campaign with Belgium, Willian, who has scored 13 goals across all competitions this season, and will be a key player for Brazil in Russia, especially given the injury and fitness clouds surrounding Neymar, Olivier Giroud, who has been very good since joining the club from Arsenal F.C. in January, as well as Marcos Alonso, who was named in the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Premier League Team of the Year for the 2017-18 season.

While for Manchester United F.C., goalkeeper David de Gea has been a superstar at the back, keeping 18 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, and was selected in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, but in terms of the rest, Romelu Lukaku has starred, scoring 27 goals in 50 appearances, including five goals in as many appearances in the FA Cup, Nemanja Matić has been superb in the midfield, while Alexis Sánchez is a big match player, and will be looking to shine on English football’s biggest stage.

The tactical battle between the two managers in Antonio Conte and José Mourinho will be fascinating given their great desire to claim a trophy to perhaps save them from any possibility of the axe. However, it is more likely that Manchester United F.C. will have greater patience, and will give Mourinho more time to find the success they have struggled to find since Sir Alex Ferguson, regardless of the result on Saturday, compared to the owner of Chelsea F.C. Roman Abramovich, who won’t tolerate the failure to pick up silverware, and perhaps Conte, regardless of the result on Saturday, and given their failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, might jump before he is pushed.

This season, Chelsea F.C. and Manchester United F.C. are one win a piece against each other heading into the FA Cup final, and in head-to-head matches in recent years, Chelsea F.C. have won eight of the last 15 matches against Manchester United F.C., but have lost two of the last three encounters. Overall, Manchester United F.C. have won 77 of their 179 encounters against Chelsea F.C. across all competitions, with Chelsea F.C. winning 53 times, and there have been 49 draws between the two clubs.

However, it will come down to who is the better team on the day, and while I think Chelsea F.C. will be strong, I think José Mourinho will deliver Manchester United F.C. their 13th FA Cup to equal Arsenal’s great record in a tactical masterclass against Conte and Chelsea.

 

 

 

2018 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix, whereby Marc Márquez took what was a dominant victory in the end, the biggest talking point was the remarkable racing incident which took out Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso, which has changed the complexion of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, which now heads to the home of French motorsport Le Mans to race on the shorter Circuit Bugatti.

Márquez (70 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 12 points over Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) heading into Zarco’s home race.

Márquez was dominant in the race at Jerez, but has been down just a touch on his normal performance over a qualifying lap, but overall, Márquez is heading towards the form that won him the first 10 races of the season back in 2014, and I sense he could go on a winning streak!

However, Zarco will be keen to stop him at his home race, where he picked up his first MotoGP podium last year, and at the moment, Zarco looks to be the only Yamaha that is genuinely capable of winning races!

This might be a disservice to the winner of last year’s French Grand Prix, Maverick Viñales (50 points), who sits in third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a satisfying, but ultimately disappointing seventh at the Spanish Grand Prix. However, after almost 12 months since his last victory in MotoGP, you don’t get the sense that the winless run for Viñales is going to end this weekend.

It is more likely though that either Andrea Iannone (47 points) for Team Suzuki Ecstar, or Dovizioso (46 points) for the Ducati Team will challenge for the win after their recent performances, particularly Iannone after two-straight podiums, but also Dovizioso after challenging for the podium in Jerez before the spectacular end to his race.

However, Valentino Rossi (40 points) will be in the same boat as his teammate Viñales, with the chances of victory being unlikely at Le Mans, while Cal Crutchlow (38 points), who took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix will be hoping to stay on his bike after failing to score in the last two races. He cannot afford another mistake if he wants to remain in championship contention, because at the moment, he is wasting the potential of the bike, and himself!

Meanwhile, Jack Miller (36 points) is making good use of last year’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 for Alma Pramac Racing with four top 10 finishes, and is just ahead of his teammate Danilo Petrucci (34 points), who is riding the newer Ducati Desmosedici GP18.

Tito Rabat (24 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Reale Avintia Racing after four-straight points-scoring finishes.

So, who is going to win the French Grand Prix?

At the moment, you cannot go past Marc Márquez winning his third race in a row, but I think it is going to be competitive behind, with Jorge Lorenzo to show the form that he showed in Jerez before the crash to take second-place, with Johann Zarco to finish in third in front of his home crowd in a huge battle pack!