Soccer

Sport in 2021: Premier League, Ryder Cup, Formula 1, The Lions, The Hundred, Euro 2020, Olympic Games

Sport is set for a bumper year in 2021 with a packed schedule following the disruptions of the last 12 months. Here’s Sky Sports’ guide to what to look forward to…

PREMIER LEAGUE

Liverpool’s 30-year wait to end their title drought ended in 2020 in the most unusual circumstances, ultimately lifting the Premier League trophy below fireworks on The Kop in a stadium empty to fans due to the pandemic.

Despite a shock 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa in October, Jurgen Klopp’s side have been among the early pacesetters in the 2020/21 season and many are backing them to lift the trophy again – perhaps in front of supporters – next May.

However, the injury suffered by key defender Virgil van Dijk in the Merseyside derby has increased belief among their rivals. Manchester City, last season’s runners-up, are likely to be among their fiercest challengers once again but the early weeks of the season have suggested that this could be one of most competitive title races in years.

Trending

Tottenham, Everton, Leicester and Southampton have made their presence felt at the top of the table while Manchester United are not out of the equation, despite a humbling 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham in October.

Arsenal’s early-season struggles have seen them dragged closer to a relegation battle than a title fight, while Sam Allardyce has been drafted in at West Brom to try and keep the Baggies in the division. West Brom were promoted with Leeds last season, who’ve proved to be one of the most entertaining sides in the league.

It’s set up nicely to be one of the most unpredictable seasons in history.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Premier League

  • Get Sky Sports
  • NOW TV Sky Sports Month Pass

FORMULA 1

The longest Formula 1 season ever is in store for Lewis Hamilton’s quest to become the first driver in the sport’s history to win eight world titles. A 23-stop schedule is planned with F1 expecting to return to racing around the globe after 2020’s season was restricted to Europe and the Middle East due to the coronavirus.

Starting in Australia on March 21 and finishing in Abu Dhabi in the first week of December, the calendar features a long-awaited return to the Netherlands and the debut of a race in Saudi Arabia on a street circuit in Jeddah. Every race will be live on Sky Sports F1, the only place to see the whole season live.

Hamilton – who is to be knighted in the New Year Honours list – will again start as favourite for that historic crown, while Mercedes are defending an unprecedented seven-year streak as world champions. But Red Bull and Max Verstappen – who are now joined by Sergio Perez – will be keen to finally stop that.

While rules are fairly stable on this occasion from the old season to the new, eight of the 20 seats have changed hands for 2021 with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz also on the move, while Mick Schumacher, the son of Michael, steps up from title success in F2 to the top level. If F1 2020 was dramatic, a record-length season promises even more.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports F1

RYDER CUP

Sky Sports will once again bring you live and exclusive coverage of the Ryder Cup as 24 of the best players in the world compete for the coveted gold trophy a year later than scheduled.

The 43rd edition of this historic sporting contest was postponed for 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with organisers unable to guarantee whether fans would be permitted to attend at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

With spectators always a crucial and integral part of any Ryder Cup, the decision was taken to delay for a year, giving Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker added time to formulate their gameplans.

The prospective Team USA line-up looks formidable, with a dozen Americans ending 2020 ranked inside the top 20 players in the world, but the team spirits and camaraderie among the European side is always a telling feature at every Ryder Cup.

Can Harrington lead Europe to a successful defence of the Ryder Cup? Or will Wisconsin-native Stricker guide his powerful home team to only their third victory of this century?

Find out this autumn, with extensive live coverage in September only on Sky Sports – your home of golf.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Golf from September 22

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS

2021 will deliver one of the most anticipated events on the rugby calendar – the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa. In five tour games, followed by three Tests in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the Lions will test themselves against the best that South Africa has to offer.

Warren Gatland’s Lions haven’t suffered a tour defeat since 2009 – when they lost to the Springboks in what was one of the greatest series of all time.

Victory over Australia in 2013 and a remarkable draw with the All Blacks in 2017 has set the Lions up for one of the most intriguing challenges we have ever seen.

Just like on the last two Test tours to South Africa in 2009 and 1997, the Lions will be facing the most-recent World Cup champions.

The Boks destroyed England in the 2019 World Cup final and many of those players will want revenge. South Africa also beat Wales in the semi-finals of the same competition.

It’s all set-up to be one of the greatest tours of all time, and we will have all the build-up and action covered across Sky Sports and skysports.com/rugby-union

Follow it live: On Sky Sports from July

BOXING… WILL WE SEE JOSHUA v FURY?

The showdown between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury has never been closer than it is now and 2021 could finally be the year that the entire sporting landscape stops and stares as the world’s two top heavyweights meet in the ring.

IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua and WBC title holder Fury hold every major belt in boxing’s most glamorous division and are in discussions to fight twice to decide the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis.

Fury’s destruction of Deontay Wilder and, more recently, Joshua delivering a reminder of his own knockout credentials against Kubrat Pulev ensured that both Brits soared through 2020 unscathed inside the ring, making their dream match-up ever closer to becoming a reality.

“I will knock him out inside three rounds,” declared Fury.

Joshua said: “Whoever has got the belt, I want the belt. If that is Tyson Fury, let it be!”

Promoters Eddie Hearn, Frank Warren and Bob Arum have each made positive noises about negotiations having the outcome that the entire sport desires.

Joshua vs Fury has never been closer or more demanded – 2021 could be boxing’s chance to deliver a moment that will be remembered in sporting folklore.

THE HUNDRED

English cricket’s first foray into a city-based white-ball tournament will see eight teams lock horns this summer in a 100-ball competition, with men’s and women’s events running side by side during the school holidays between July and September.

England Test and one-day stars will be joined by a number of international names, with the squads for Manchester Originals, Northern Superchargers, Birmingham Phoenix, Trent Rockets, Welsh Fire, London Spirit, Oval Invincibles and Southern Brave to be finalised at February’s player draft.

Talismanic England all-rounder Ben Stokes will play for Superchargers, while World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan will aim to propel another white-ball side to glory when he skippers Spirit. There will be stardust on the sidelines, too, with Shane Warne coaching Spirit and Mahela Jayawardene in charge of the Brave team.

The women’s competition will feature some of the finest white-ball players around, including No 1-ranked T20I bowler Sophie Ecclestone (Originals), England skipper Heather Knight (Spirit) and Australia’s dynamic wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy (Superchargers).

The ECB believes The Hundred can attract a new audience to cricket, hence why it was postponed a year from its initial 2020 start date due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, stadiums will be packed out this summer as the tournament finally gets going.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Cricket from July

EURO 2020

Coronavirus put Euro 2020 back a year to 2021, but 24 sides are now scheduled to play across 12 host cities in a festival of football next summer.

Scotland beat Serbia in a penalty shootout in November to reach a major tournament for the first time since 1998 and have been paired in Group D with Croatia, Czech Republic and, of course, England. The Wembley showdown between the Auld Enemies on Friday, June 18 is set to be one of the highlights of the group stage.

Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will host the opening match between Turkey and Italy on June 11 with matches also being held in Baku, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Glasgow, Bilbao, Dublin and Budapest. Wembley will host both semi-finals, followed by the final on July 11.

Wales have been drawn in Group A with Italy, Turkey and Switzerland but Group F – which pits Hungary against defending European champions Portugal and the last two World Cup winners in France and Germany – is expected to be the toughest.

Belgium, Spain and Gareth Southgate’s England will all fancy their chances of going all the way and fans are hoping that, after a 12-month delay, the tournament will have been worth the wait.

Follow it live: On the Sky Sports Scores App from June 11

  • Download the Sky Sports Scores App: Apple | Android
  • The UK’s No 1 scores app: Find out more

THE OLYMPICS

Having been postponed for the first time in its 124-year history, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will hope to bring the best of the sporting world together in Tokyo for three weeks across July and August.

Five years on from Rio de Janeiro, the Summer Games will head to Japan for the first time since 1964 when Tokyo was also the host city and as usual there’ll be a wealth of athletic achievement and human endeavour to marvel at.

All eyes will be on the men’s 100m when a first gold medallist not named Usain Bolt will be crowned since 2004, while Dina Asher-Smith will hope to end Jamaican dominance in the women’s 100m and 200m as Britain’s best hope of an individual sprint medal.

It’s not just on the track where eyes will be trained. Katie Ledecky and Adam Peaty will take top billing in the swimming pool and there will be another chance to marvel at the magnificence of US gymnast Simon Biles.

The big names from the worlds of tennis, football, basketball will also descend on Japan in the hope of adding a gold medal to their collection – Roger Federer chief among them and Naomi Osaka will lead home hopes for a medal.

Follow it live: On the Sky Sports App from July

GOLF’S MAJORS

Sky Sports will truly be the “home of the majors” in 2021, with live coverage of all the big tournaments in the men’s and women’s game being broadcast on Sky Sports Golf.

Just five months after storming to his second major title, Dustin Johnson will hope to feel the passion of the patrons at Augusta National as he defends The Masters in April.

The PGA Championship returns to picturesque Kiawah Island in May, with the US Open following a month later from Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods won an epic 14th major title in 2008.

Shane Lowry was unable to defend his Open crown in 2020, but he will hope that handing back the Claret Jug on his arrival at Royal St George’s will be temporary ahead of The 149th Open in July.

The major action begins the week before The Masters, with Georgia Hall and Charley Hull bidding to earn the right to leap into Poppie’s Pond after the ANA Inspiration in California.

Record prize money will be on offer in the women’s game next year, and we’ll have live coverage of the US Women’s Open and the KPGA Women’s PGA (both in June), and the Evian Championship (July) followed by the AIG Women’s Open at iconic Carnoustie in August.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Golf

WORLD T20

Before the Test team heads to Australia for The Ashes, England’s men will bid for a second T20 World Cup title – and first in 11 years – when they head to India in October.

England claimed their maiden T20 crown in the Caribbean in 2010 and looked set for a second in the previous edition in 2016, only for West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite to make us all remember his name by dashing their hopes with four successive sixes in the final over.

Fresh off eight T20I series without defeat, including a recent 3-0 sweep in South Africa, England top the T20I rankings, as does one of their batsmen. Dawid Malan heads the batting standings, above Pakistan’s Babar Azam and India’s Virat Kohli, after passing fifty 10 times in his 19 T20 internationals. The left-hander averages 53.43, has scored his runs at a strike rate of 149.47 and is keeping Joe Root, England’s leading run-scorer in the 2016 tournament, out of the side.

With a power-packed batting unit, the pace of Jofra Archer and the consistent spin of Adil Rashid, England look one of the favourites for the title but are sure to be pushed hard by the likes of India, Pakistan and an Australia side yet to win the short-form World Cup.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Cricket from October

SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP

Can Rangers do it? Can they stop Celtic winning a 10th successive title?

Both halves of Glasgow had previously claimed nine titles in a row before Celtic did it for a second time when last season was called to a halt in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, December’s delayed Scottish Cup victory over Hearts means Celtic secured a quadruple treble. Their trophy dominance will end in 2021 as they, like Rangers, have been knocked out of the Scottish League Cup – but the Scottish Premiership title is the one that really matters.

Steven Gerrard’s team set a scintillating pace at the start of the season, putting pressure on their rivals from across the city. Celtic supporters have shown their displeasure with demonstrations at Celtic Park and plenty of pressure being placed on Neil Lennon’s shoulders after his side failed to reach the Champions League group stage and exited the Europa League before the knockout stage.

Aberdeen and Hibs are among the teams with eyes on European qualification, while Ross County and Hamilton will surely be happy just to avoid the drop

Whatever happens, Sky Sports is the new home of Scottish football and will show up to 48 live matches during the course of the 2020/21 campaign.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Football

NFL

In terms of world sporting events, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Super Bowl!

Well, much like all sport in 2020, Super Bowl Sunday is set to have a different feel to it in Tampa Bay on February 7, with only a 20 per cent seating capacity (13,000 fans) expected. But, on the field, the action should be as spectacular as ever.

Is there any stopping the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs? With just one loss on the season so far, they look favourites to make it to the big dance again, though there are plenty of credible contenders – Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills – nipping at their heels hoping that 2021 will be their year.

Beyond the Super Bowl, the biggest date in the offseason calendar is the NFL Draft, to be held in Cleveland in 2021. The much-anticipated first-round will take place on April 29; will it be the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars who ultimately own the No 1 pick and take ‘generational’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Clemson?

Then, come September, we will be gearing up to do it all again for the 2021 NFL season!

Follow it live: On Sky Sports NFL

NBA

Reigning champions the Los Angeles Lakers – led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis and strengthened by the arrival of Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell – will be defending their NBA Championship after defeating Miami Heat.

A 17th championship in franchise history won in the NBA bubble in Orlando after victory over Miami in the NBA Finals saw them draw level with the Boston Celtics for the most of all-time.

Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Clippers are among those who will hope to challenge the Lakers for this year’s title and you can watch all the drama unfold – live on Sky Sports.

The season tips off on December 23, but moving into 2021, Sky Sports will broadcast 19 games that begin between 6pm and 10pm UK time across January and February.

The second half of the season will run from March 11 to May 16. The playoffs tip-off May 22 with four rounds of best-of-seven series and the NBA Finals are set to run through with a potential Game 7 no later than July 22.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports

SUPER LEAGUE

The 2020 Super League season will go down in the history books as one to be remembered for a very long time.

Like all sport, the Covid-19 pandemic brought upheaval and uncertainty, but that did not diminish the action or the drama on the field as the fight to be crowned Super League champions came down to the final play of the Grand Final as St Helens snatched an 8-4 victory over great rivals Wigan Warriors.

It was a year too where rugby league bid farewell to some of its icons, with Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham calling time on their careers, but new stars are in the ascendancy as well.

There is Jack Welsby, who wrote his name in history with that last-gasp Grand Final try, and his Saints team-mate Regan Grace, plus the Leeds Rhinos pair of 2020’s leading try-scorer Ash Handley and young player of the year Harry Newman to name but a few.

Australian great Greg Inglis, who has come out of retirement to join Warrington Wolves, leads the NRL contingent coming to these shores in 2021 to join established overseas stars like Wigan’s Bevan French and Huddersfield Giants’ Aidan Sezer.

There are plenty of questions too: Can St Helens win three in a row? Will one of Warrington, Hull FC or Castleford Tigers add a new name to the trophy? How will Leigh Centurions fare after being promoted?

All we know at the moment is, it is going to be enthralling to see the answer to those become clearer when the 2021 season kicks off in March.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports from March

DARTS

Who will succeed Peter Wright and lift the Sid Waddell Trophy? After a truncated 2020, the culmination of the darting year is still to come as the PDC World Darts Championship reaches its conclusion over the first three days of January.

As for 2021, there is every expectation that the PDC will once again fulfil their tournament calendar after a year which saw new champions crowned in the Premier League, the World Matchplay, the Grand Slam of Darts and the World Cup.

Glen Durrant, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jose De Sousa are the newest names on the PDC major honours list while Michael van Gerwen will hope to continue his reign as the world No 1 and add to his trophy haul.

The format of grouped ProTour events as seen in the Summer, Autumn and Winter Series could all return while the best female players in the game will hope for another chance to impress after the inaugural Women’s Series.

The darting year starts in January at Qualifying School which offers players a chance to win their Tour Card, and could feature the likes of Fallon Sherrock and Deta Hedman hoping to follow Lisa Ashton’s historic achievement last year.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports all year round

EFL

The Championship is, once again, living up to its reputation as one of the most unpredictable, exciting divisions in world football – and there’s no doubt that will continue into 2021.

Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford were relegated from the Premier League last term and, while history suggests one or two may have struggled to acclimatise to the second tier, all three have begun to mount a promotion push. The Hornets have even made the inevitable management change, with Xisco Munoz the fifth man to take charge since the start of last season, after replacing Vladimir Ivic.

The trio will likely be pushed to the limit by Brentford, who have displayed few signs of a hangover, despite the sales of prized assets Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, that followed their play-off final defeat to west London neighbours Fulham at Wembley. The 2020/21 play-offs are scheduled for the weekend of May 29-31.

There’s also a gripping storyline at the bottom of the table. Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe lost their first seven league games but have since shown an admirable level of grit and determination to move closer to safety, though they remain locked in an intriguing battle against the drop with Tony Pulis’ Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, who have been coached by Wayne Rooney for much of the winter.

Nothing is ever cut and dried in the Championship, so be sure to keep your finger on the pulse with Sky Sports.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Football

  • Sky Sports TV guide
  • Live Sport on Sky Sports

NETBALL

2021 will start with the first ever Vitality Netball Legends series, live on Sky Sports, as England’s Vitality Roses will meet Jamaica in four Test matches.

The Sunshine Girls are known for their exceptional flair while the Roses’ tour of New Zealand, during a challenging 2020, showed their considerable strength in depth.

England made world champions New Zealand work for their victories; they did so without their Australia-based stalwarts and with head coach Jess Thirlby left at home in England. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams and George Fisher all took their opportunities superbly.

Netball has a huge appetite to return from a COVID-19 hit 2020 stronger than ever. Everyone involved wants to ‘Rise Again’ and the Vitality Netball Superleague will be at the heart of that ambition having been forced to cancel the 2019 season.

Across the board franchises have recruited strongly as well as retaining key talents. Leeds Rhinos Netball will be involved for the first time and head coach Dan Ryan has put together a head-turning squad which includes the former Australian Diamond Madi Browne and rising star Donnell Wallam.

Away from the court, netballers continue to speak up about important topics such as mental health, inclusivity, motherhood and sport, and diversity.

GAA

The GAA Championships will return to Sky Sports in 2021 with a quickfire turnaround after this year’s December football and hurling finals.

In Gaelic football, Dublin will be looking to continue their dominance as they hunt a seventh consecutive Sam Maguire Cup triumph. The men from the capital do not have time to rest on their laurels, with only seven months separating the 2020 and 2021 All-Ireland finals. There are a number of teams who will be eyeing up a scalp, with Mayo, Kerry, Galway and Donegal among those in the chasing pack who will have All-Ireland ambitions of their own.

In hurling, the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup looks wide open.

2020 champions Limerick will be hoping to win a third title in the space of four seasons, but the Treaty face a mammoth task if they are to win back-to-back titles for the first time in their history. Firstly, they enter a mouth-watering Munster Championship, which contains 2019 All-Ireland winners Tipperary, a resurgent Waterford, while Cork and Clare will be looking to improve on last season.

In Leinster, Kilkenny put their provincial title on the line, with Galway, Wexford and Dublin among the contenders. Laois and newly-promoted Antrim will also be hoping to cause an upset.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports

RACING

Getting crowds back on the course is clearly going to be the key for many in horse racing, most notably the racecourses, in 2021 but the year just gone was still one full of fond memories despite the enforced couple of months off in late spring and early summer.

As it happened, thanks to the combined effort of racing’s leaders around the globe, most of the major races actually took place in the condensed 2020 programme but the big absentee – and the one many would look forward to the most – was the Grand National when we were denied the chance to see Tiger Roll go for his unprecedented hat-trick. Now he has to overcome age – he’ll turn 11 on January 1 – and more importantly, bounce back to something like his best form if that dream is to become a reality at Aintree in April.

By then we’ll hopefully have had another high-profile Cheltenham Festival – with perhaps fewer negative headlines if there is a crowd in 2021 – when Epatante will bid to continue her dominance of the hurdling ranks and future stars Envoi Allen and Shishkin will be out to stamp themselves as chasing’s new stars.

All the big flat races were somehow run in 2020 but the 2021 calendar should be something more like normal, as will the names we can look forward to following. The O’Brien dynasty – Aidan, Joseph and now Donnacha – all have major hopes in the Classics at the beginning of their three-year-old campaigns with Pretty Gorgeous, Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica names to look out for along with a few horses we might not even have seen on the track yet.

They could all be in attendance by the time Royal Ascot comes around in June, and what a fillip it would be for the sport if all the pomp and circumstance missing from this year’s behind-closed-doors meeting was back in 2021; if there was just that chance to have a bet on the colour of The Queen’s hat on the opening day and on Stradivarius to win his fourth straight Gold Cup under the seemingly ageless Frankie Dettori.

And what a story it would be if the new queen of horse racing, Hollie Doyle, was able to fulfil her dream of becoming the first female champion jockey. She has already done so much for the sport in the last two years but that would just be the icing on the cake in a year when hopefully there will be fewer bumps in the road.

Follow it live: On Sky Sports Racing

Come alive in 2021 with simply unmissable action on Sky Sports. The most unpredictable Premier League title race in years, a potentially historic F1 season and the return of the Lions. Fell it all on Sky Sports.

Source: Read Full Article