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My sporting month: March 2011

March is an extremely busy month in the sporting calendar, with a host of different major events across multiple sports. In addition to the five events listed below, I will also be taking time to catch as much as I can of the FA Cup quarter-finals (which includes the mouth-watering possibility of a showdown between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford), the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Paris, cycling’s World Track Championships (which this year takes place in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands), the University Boat Race and the final two rounds of Six Nations matches, which offers the possibility of an England Grand Slam.

None of the above makes my personal list of highlights for March, though. Here are the five that did.

1. UEFA Champions League, Barcelona vs Arsenal (8th)

Arsenal came from behind to win 2-1 in the first leg at the Emirates, leaving this last-16 tie delicately poised for next week’s return match at Camp Nou. History suggests that teams which lose the away leg 2-1 are still the more likely to progress, and Arsenal know Barcelona will rightly consider themselves favourites to overturn the deficit at home.

The English side will not be able to sit back and hope for a goalless draw, which would guarantee their passage to the quarter-finals – in six previous European meetings between these two teams, neither has yet to keep a clean sheet. Arsenal will certainly look to snatch a crucial away goal on the break to cancel out David Villa‘s goal at the Emirates, but their own goal is likely to come under siege from the likes of Lionel Messi, XaviPedro and Villa himself.

If the second leg is anywhere near as good as the first, it will be a classic and a wonderful game for the neutrals. Miss it at your peril.

Mark Cavendish will be looking to win Milan-San Remo for the second time (image courtesy of TDWSport.com)

2. Milan-San Remo (19th)

One of cycling’s big one-day Classics, Milan San-Remo always attracts a large number of the sport’s big names. It is the longest professional one-day race at 298km, and although it is sometimes referred to as ‘the sprinters’ classic’, it features a lumpy route ending in the Poggio climb just a few kilometres from the finish. The last of a series of shortish but tough climbs, it drains the legs of energy to set up a taxing finish.

British superstar sprinter Mark Cavendish won here in 2009, and he will be back again looking to claim a second win after injury compromised his defence last year. Look out for also for last year’s winner Óscar Freire, world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara and Heinrich Haussler, who was edged out by Cavendish in 2009 but already has two stage wins at last month’s Tour of Qatar under his belt.

3. Cricket World Cup knockout phase (starts 23rd)

The quadrennial World Cup tournament takes an awfully long time to get going, with the group phase taking over a month to whittle down the original 14 entrants to eight. But once we reach the serious business of the knockout stages – the quarter-finals start on the 23rd – the drama will come thick and fast as we build towards the final on April 2nd.

Defending champions Australia have already made an ominously strong start to the tournament, winning their opening games over New Zealand and Zimbabwe with some ease as they seek an incredible fourth straight win (and fifth overall). And England, after a shaky start against the Netherlands, will have taken great encouragement from Sunday’s thrilling tied match against co-hosts India. Can Andrew Strauss‘s men safely negotiate their group and give themselves a chance of adding the 50-over world title to last year’s Twenty20 win?

4. Australian Football League kickoff (starts 24th)

After 2010 saw only the third Grand Final replay in history – Collingwood finally beat St Kilda at the second attempt – the 2011 Aussie Rules season kicks off on Thursday 24th. This year the league has expanded to 17 clubs with the introduction of the new Gold Coast team.

Collingwood kick off the defence of their title at Port Adelaide on Saturday 26th, but I will be focussed on the final game of round one the following day as the West Coast Eagles travel to North Melbourne to take on the Kangaroos. After a dismal 2010 in which they finished bottom of the ladder just four years after winning their third Grand Final, the only was is up for the Eagles.

2010 champion Sebastian Vettel (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

5. Australian Grand Prix (27th)

With the opening Bahrain GP cancelled due to safety concerns, the 2011 Formula 1 season now kicks off at the end of the month with the Australian race around Albert Park in Melbourne. Red Bull and their 23-year old driver Sebastian Vettel – the youngest drivers’ champion in the sport’s history – remain the combination to beat, although the German can continue to expect stiff competition from team-mate Mark Webber, not to mention the massed forces of both McLaren and Ferrari.

With Bahrain now removed from the calendar, the season now comprises 19 races, ending at Interlagos in Brazil at the end of November. If 2011 is even half as close as last year, which gave us the tightest title race in years with the four Red Bull and McLaren drivers all in contention until the final couple of races, it should be an exciting year.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

One Response to My sporting month: March 2011

  1. James says:

    Ireland will have something to say about England’s Grand Slam ambitions, methinks….mehopes 🙂

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