My sporting month: October 2010

October is a busy month in the sporting calendar, with its opening weekend in particular crammed full of potential highlights from all over the world – two of them taking place in Melbourne.

Here are five of the events which I will be looking out for over the next 31 days, with an honourable mention to three others which will struggle to compete for my personal airtime in what looks set to be a jam-packed month of intense – and hopefully exciting – sporting action.

1. AFL Grand Final replay (2nd)

For only the third time in the history of Aussie Rules, last Saturday’s Grand Final between Collingwood and St Kilda ended in a tie, 68-68, after St Kilda overturned a 24-point second half deficit.

Tomorrow’s replay of the final at the MCG promises to be equally tense. It is a long time since either club has enjoyed the privilege of being reigning Premiers – Collingwood’s last Grand Final win was in 1990, St Kilda’s in 1966 (when they defeated Collingwood in the final).

Philippe Gilbert

2. UCI Road World Championships: Men’s road race (3rd)

Cycling’s annual championships in Geelong and Melbourne actually started on Wednesday – Great Britain’s Emma Pooley won the women’s time trial – but the highlight will be the closing event, the men’s road race, which takes place on Sunday. The riders will tackle a 262.7 km course with a tricky uphill finish which may favour Classics strong men over pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish.

Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert, winner of this year’s Amstel Gold race and of two stages in last month’s Vuelta a España, will feature among the favourites for what promises to be an open race.

For further analysis of the contenders for the race, read Jack Sargeant’s preview over at The Sports Review.

3. Premier League: Chelsea vs Arsenal (3rd) and Man City vs Arsenal (24th)

After last weekend’s shock home defeat to West Brom, Arsenal face two tough Premier League away trips this month, travelling first to Chelsea on Sunday and then to Manchester City, who dealt the champions their first defeat of the season last week.

Arsène Wenger‘s side suffered heavy losses in both these fixtures last season. After these two games we will have a good idea whether they are in better shape to mount a credible title run this year.

Mark Webber (image courtesy of formula1.com)

Championship leader Mark Webber

4. Formula 1: Japanese GP (10th) and Korean GP (24th)

With a potential 100 points still available from the four remaining races and just 25 separating current championship leader Mark Webber from fifth-placed Jenson Button, there is still everything to play for as one of the tightest F1 seasons of all time approaches its climax.

Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso currently has the greatest momentum, having won three of the last five races (including the last two). By contrast, Lewis Hamilton will be desperate to reignite his title challenge, having crashed out of the last two races.

Meanwhile, the entire F1 circus will wait with bated breath to see whether or not the new Korean GP will actually go ahead as planned, with the organisers struggling to get the new track complete in time.

5. San Francisco 49ers vs Denver Broncos (31st)

After an unbeaten preseason, the 49ers have started 0-3 and already parted company with their offensive co-ordinator. Mike Singletary‘s team will need a good run over the next four games if they are to arrive for the NFL‘s fourth regular season game in the UK with their playoff hopes still intact. Their opponents at Wembley, the Denver Broncos, are 1-2 after a difficult start, so both teams will desperately need to win this repeat of Super Bowl XXIV (which the Joe Montana-led 49ers won 55-10).

The game will be covered live on Sky Sports, with highlights shown on the BBC. 80,000-plus fans will be there on the day; I’ll be one of them.

I have omitted (at least) three other major events from this month’s list, which I will at least follow in some capacity. Golf‘s Ryder Cup runs from today through to Sunday at Celtic Manor in Wales. The 19th Commonwealth Games, despite its much-publicised problems and the withdrawal of many competitors, will nonetheless start in Delhi on the 3rd and continue until the 14th. And finally, baseball‘s World Series is scheduled to start on the 27th.

Like I said, it’s a jam-packed month. Enjoy.

The week in numbers: w/e 26/9/10

England captain Andrew Strauss (image courtesy of HNM_1977)

8 Andrew Strauss‘s 68 in last Monday’s fourth one-day international against Pakistan was the eighth time he has passed 50 in ODIs in 2010, more than any other batsman. England went on to win the series 3-2.

68 – Points scored by both Collingwood and St Kilda in Saturday’s AFL Grand Final, after St Kilda recovered from a 24-point, third quarter deficit to level the scores with just 1:31 remaining. The teams will replay the final next Saturday.

3 – It was only the third tied final in AFL history, and the first since 1977.

0.293 – In seconds, Fernando Alonso‘s winning margin over Sebastian Vettel at yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

25 – The points difference between F1 championship leader Mark Webber and fifth-placed Jenson Button, equivalent to the points available for a single race win. There are four grands prix remaining (assuming the Korean Grand Prix goes ahead).

31 – Age of Terry Newton, the former Wakefield and Great Britain rugby league star, who was found hanged at his home near Wigan yesterday afternoon. Newton had been serving a two-year suspension after testing positive for human growth hormone (HGH).

Ronnie O'Sullivan

10Ronnie O’Sullivan scored a record tenth career 147 break at the World Open in Glasgow last Monday. He had to be asked to pot the final black for the benefit of the crowd, having stopped at the pink in protest at the lack of a sizeable prize for a maximum break.

1 – Australian Neil Robertson defeated O’Sullivan 5-1 in last night’s final to confirm his position as the new world number one. He has now won all six of the world-ranking finals he has contested.

1997West Ham‘s 2-1 victory at Sunderland was the first time they had won a League Cup tie against top-tier opponents since 1997.

6 – In each of Wednesday’s six Carling Cup third round ties, the team scoring first ended up being knocked out of the competition.

69 – League positions between Liverpool (16th in the Premier League) and Northampton Town (17th in League Two) when the teams faced each other at Anfield in the Carling Cup. Northampton won on penalties when the match finished 2-2 after extra time, advancing to the fourth round for the first time since 1966.

30 – By winning 4-3 at Stamford Bridge, Newcastle ended Chelsea‘s run of 30 home domestic cup ties without defeat.

The Premier League week in numbers

Carlos Tevez

6 Carlos Tevez has scored six times in his last five Premier League appearances against Chelsea. In scoring the only goal of the game on Saturday, he raised his record to 25 goals in his last 29 league appearances.

0.70 – Goals per Premier League match conceded by Manchester City (27 games, 19 goals) since Roberto Mancini took over as manager. Under his predecessor Mark Hughes, they conceded goals at exactly twice that rate – 77 goals in 55 games, or 1.40 per match.

2 – Since the start of the 2009/10 season, Chelsea have failed to score just twice in the Premier League – against Birmingham last season and at Manchester City. The opposing goalkeeper on both occasions was Joe Hart.

5 – By drawing 0-0 at home to Everton, Fulham became only the second Premier League side to draw five of their opening six league games of the season, after Ipswich in 1992/93.

6 Fulham are unbeaten in their first six games, their best ever start to a Premier League season.

Samir Nasri (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

3Samir Nasri has scored all three Arsenal goals in West Bromwich Albion‘s two visits to the Emirates Stadium. His two goals on Saturday were his first at home in the Premier League since scoring two against Manchester United in November 2008.

18 – Their 3-2 win at the Emirates ended West Brom’s run of 18 consecutive Premier League away games without a win (four draws, 14 defeats).

5Manuel Almunia has saved five of the last six Premier League penalties he has faced at the Emirates Stadium. (He saved Chris Brunt‘s first-half spot-kick on Saturday.)

2 – West Ham, who won their first league game of the season (1-0 versus Spurs), have collected exactly two yellow cards in each of their six Premier League games to date.

21Birmingham‘s goalless draw with Wigan extended their run of unbeaten home league games to 21.

2 – Six games into the Premier League season, there are now only two undefeated teams – Manchester United and Fulham.

1 – West Ham’s victory over Spurs means Everton are now the Premier League’s only winless club.

The NFL week in numbers

Tom Brady (image courtesy of Keith Allison)

22 – Consecutive home starts won by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (New England 38 Buffalo 30). Brady passed for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

22 – Consecutive road losses by the Detroit Lions, tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history (Minnesota 24 Detroit 10).

2Seattle‘s Leon Washington returned kickoffs 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns, becoming only the tenth player in NFL history to record two kick return TDs in a single game (Seattle 27 San Diego 20).

3 – There will be just three undefeated teams in the NFL after week three. The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers are both 3-0, and the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers tonight, with both currently 2-0.

5 – Conversely, there are five teams still looking to record their first win (Buffalo, Carolina, Cleveland, Detroit and San Francisco).

(Some statistics courtesy of @OptaJoe, @optajim, @OptaJean, @StatManJon and NFL.com.)

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