FOOTBALL – It’s going to be tough for British clubs left in Europe.
In the Champions League, there will be two England v Italy confrontations in the last sixteen – Arsenal against AC Milan and Chelsea v Napoli.
The holders Barcelona face Bayer Leverkusen while Real Madrid play CSKA (Moscow). In the Europa League, Manchester City will meet Portuguese League leaders FC Porto, neighbours United take on Ajax Amsterdam and Stoke City play Valencia.
Both competitions will resume in February. In the Premiership last weekend, Norwich goalkeeper was ‘Ruddy’ marvellous at Everton (1-1) and WBA won at Blackburn for the first time in 20 years (2-1).
Elsewhere, Stoke triumphed in the Staffordshire derby, 2-1 at Wolves; there were 2-0 wins for Manchester United (at QPR –which took them top), Liverpool (at Aston Villa) and Fulham v Bolton; Spurs beat Sunderland and Manchester City reclaimed top spot by beating Arsenal 1-0. Newcastle and Swansea drew 0-0. In League One, young Jordan Rhodes scored all Huddersfield’s goals in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
All 20 top-flight clubs have been in action again this week and hopefully Roberto Mancini’s men will enter Christmas as Premiership leaders. Bolton, however, could be the strongest club in the Division, holding up the rest!
Southampton and West Ham lead the way in the Championship, Charlton and the aforementioned Sheffield Wednesday likewise in League One, Crawley and Southend in League Two and Rangers in Scotland. And oh, just for the record, Wrexham (now owned by supporters) top the DBS (Conference), Shamrock Rovers and Linfield head the two main Irish Leagues, Llanelli are Welsh League leaders and Sunderland Ladies sit on top of the Women’s Premier League.
Meanwhile Barcelona won the World Club Trophy, whipping Santos (Brazil) 4-0 in Japan with two brilliant goals by Lionel Messi.
Late news: FC Basel is under investigation by FIFA and this could mean a Champions League recall for Manchester United (watch the news). Former Portsmouth and England wing-half Len Phillips has died, aged 89.
GOLF – Two Brits won big competitions – Lee Westwood took the Thailand Open by seven shots and Ian Poulter eased home in the Australian Masters by three.
Westwood is now second in the world rankings, ahead of Rory McIlroy. RACING – The oldest racehorse in training – The Tatling – retired last week after winning his 176th and final race, at 16-1 at Wolverhampton.
The Tatling won £690,000 in prize money over 12 years while racing on 31 different courses in Britain, Ireland, France and Hong Kong.
CYCLING – Mark Cavendish, the ‘Manx Machine’ who still dons the top he wore when winning the road cycling world title, is favourite to become the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The programme is live on TV tonight when ex-Grand National winning jockey Bob Champion will receive the Helen Rollason award.
MOTOGP – Suzuki will not compete in next year’s championship for financial reasons, thus ending a 37-year association with the sport.
The Japanese factory’s rider Alvaro Bautista finished 13th this season.
RUGBY UNION – In the Heineken Cup there were excellent wins for Harlequins (31-24 in Toulouse, Northampton (45-0 v Castres), Munster 19-13 (v Saracens), Leicester (23-19 v Clermont), Leinster (52-27 v Bath), Saracens (19-13 v Ospreys), Harlequins (31-24 in Toulouse), Northampton (45-0 v Castres) and Munster (19-13 v Scarlets).
BOXING: American Andre Ward outclassed GB’s Carl Froch to win the super Six Super-middleweight World title in Atlanta City.
DID YOU KNOW? On Boxing Day, 1963, a total of 66 goals were scored in ten First Division matches – an average of 6.6 goals per game.
Results from that goal-crazy day 48 years ago: Blackpool 1 Chelsea 5; Burnley 6 Manchester Utd 1; Fulham 10 Ipswich 1; Leicester 2 Everton 0; Liverpool 6 Stoke 1; Nottingham Forest 3 Sheffield Utd 3; Sheffield Wednesday 3 Bolton 0; WBA 4 Tottenham 4; West Ham 2 Blackburn 8; Wolves 3 Aston Villa 3.
And from me to you, I wish everyone a very sporty Christmas and may your team win!