Sports round up archive

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Monday March 22nd

Soccer - Chelsea v Arsenal in Champions League Blockbuster

Chelsea gets another chance to prove it can beat Arsenal in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League. The Gunners are on a high at the moment with the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League all firmly in their sights. But standing in their way to Champions League glory is Chelsea with the first leg of the quarter finals to be played on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. The biggest battle for the Blues, however, won't be physical but psychological. Last month in league and FA Cup games, Chelsea went down to Arsenal despite having a 1-nil lead at one stage in both matches. This time around there is a renewed confidence at Chelsea with everyone from the club's chief executive to manager Claudio Ranieri speaking with a renewed determination about how they can beat Arsenal. Both teams are coming off solid wins in the Premiership and should be at full strength.

In other first leg, quarter final matches Milan hosts Deportivo, Porto is at home to Lyon and Monaco is away to Real Madrid.

Rugby League - Warriors Struggling

The Warriors are the surprise team at the bottom of the NRL ladder after two rounds and are facing an ominous opponent this weekend. The New Zealand side has yet to post a win this season leaving many in shock especially after their loss at home to St George-Illawarra. The Warriors are again at Ericsson Stadium this weekend when they host defending champions Penrith. Coach Daniel Anderson said his side lacked spirit in the loss to the Dragons and will be hoping for a return of some emotion for the game against the Panthers.

Joining the Warriors as the only other team yet to register a win this season is Cronulla. The Sharks are still fighting to disassociate themselves with the word 'hapless' although the signs of improvement are there. Cronulla was unlucky to go down to the Bulldogs and their performance will surely give them some motivation for the round 3 match against the Sea Eagles at home. Nigel Vagana, who has been struggling with a shoulder injury, could make his debut for the Sharks against Manly if he passes a fitness test.

NBL - Sin-City Series to be a Scorcher

The NBL trophy will stay in Sydney this year but where? For the first time, the Sydney Kings and the West Sydney Razorbacks will battle for the NBL championship. Both teams had relatively easy semi final series, needing only the two games to beat the Bullets and the Hawks respectively to a grand final berth. West Sydney arguably performed better in their series against Wollongong although the fact the Kings were pushed to the limit in both their games could hold them in good stead for the finals. They've also been the team to beat all season. One thing is for sure, the grand final series will be anything but boring. There is no love lost between the two clubs with Pigs forward Simon Dwight already accusing the Kings of arrogance. Perhaps they have a right to be having already won a championship and now going for back-to-back titles. After joining the league in 1998/1999, West Sydney made it to the grand final in 2002 only to go down to Adelaide. The first game of the five match series is on Wednesday night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Rugby Union - Brumbies Back on Top

The Brumbies return to Canberra from South Africa on top of the Super 12 table. Overall, the ACT had a good fortnight in South Africa. They did lose to the Bulls but fought back against the Stormers the following week to claim top spot on the Super 12 table. The next test for the Brumbies will be against Queensland in Canberra this Sunday. The Reds are coming off the bye and will be keen for a win to keep their hopes of a semi-final appearance alive. But they'll probably have to do it without captain Elton Flatley who, at this stage, has been ruled out after suffering another knock to the head. For the Brumbies, winger Clyde Rathbone is expected to be right despite sustaining an ankle injury against the Stormers.

Meanwhile, the Waratahs will need to beat the Chiefs in New Zealand if they're to stop what could be yet another fall from grace midway through a Super 12 season. New South Wales lost both games in South Africa and won't have Mat Rogers in Hamilton after he aggravated his ankle injury.

Thursday March 25th

The AFL season kicks off this weekend with the Lions still favourites to win the premiership at Sportsbet at $3.25. Collingwood at $7.00 are just ahead of Port Adelaide at $7.50.

Geelong will be out to avenge their Wizard Cup loss to St.Kilda when they again take on the Saints on Saturday night in the opening AFL round this weekend. Geelong are currently priced at an attractive $2.70 when you consider that they led St. Kilda at the last change in the Wizard Cup Final.

This weekend's matches see the Lions favourites at $1.33 at home over the Swans at $3.35 on Friday night and the Magpies at $1.72 over Richmond $2.15 at the MCG on Saturday.

AFL - Brisbane Going for Four!

Brisbane opens its campaign for an AFL premiership four-peat on Saturday night against the Swans. The AFL season hasn't even started but the injury lists are growing. Sydney's Tadhg Kennelly has broken down at training and is in doubt for the clash against the reigning premiers at the Gabba. If he's ruled out he'll join Andrew Schauble, Matthew Nicks, Rowan Warfe, Ben Fixter and Adam Schneider on the sideline.

Brisbane is also likely to field a depleted line-up with question marks over Alastair Lynch, Chris Scott and Beau McDonald. Brisbane captain Michael Voss, however, will definitely play even though his knee continues to trouble him.

Meanwhile, St Kilda and Geelong face off in a repeat of the Wizard Cup final. The Saints won that battle but the last few weeks have been tough with sexual assault claims leveled against Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna. Montagna is rated only a 50/50 chance of playing this weekend.

Richmond and Collingwood open the 2004 season, Hawthorn plays Melbourne, Fremantle is at home to Carlton, Port Adelaide meets Essendon, the Kangaroos tackle Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs take on the West Coast.

NRL - Bulldogs Battle Scandal Ahead of Roosters

They don't come any bigger than tonights heavyweight NRL round 3 clash between ladder leaders Sydney Roosters and the Bulldogs. The betting indicates an even match with the Roosters favourite at $1.85.

It has been another week of turmoil for the Bulldogs in the lead up to their blockbuster game against the Roosters. First there was the resignation of club stalwart and CEO Steve Mortimer. Then revelations Willie Mason tested positive to cocaine in the off-season and was fined. And now the Bulldogs have to regroup and face last year's finalists the Sydney Roosters to kick off round three.

The Roosters have problems of their own, however, with injury and suspension taking away such experienced players as Ryan Cross (who has been replaced by Chris Flannery), Craig Wing, Jason Cayless and Michael Crocker. Matt Utai returns to the Bulldogs side after serving a suspension for a high tackle in a trial match.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are back after the bye to take on the Raiders. Canberra will be boosted by the return from injury of Brad Drew but suspended captain Simon Woolford will miss the game. North Queensland lost their first round match.

In other games, the Sharks host Manly, Newcastle travels to Parramatta, Wests-Tigers take on Brisbane, Melbourne tackles St George-Illawarra and the Warriors are at home to Penrith.

Soccer - All Eyes on Arsenal-Man U Clash

Arsenal meets Manchester United at home in what was going to be the match of the season just a few weeks back. When Man U and the Gunners were battling for top spot on the league ladder, fans were salivating at the thought this match would probably decide the premiership. Manchester United's slide down the ladder has, however, tempered that excitement but the match is still the game of the weekend.

Arsenal is coming off a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the quarter finals of the Champions League and is also playing for history having equaled the record for most unbeaten games in a row. Chelsea has more of a chance than Man U to overthrow Arsenal and will be expected to beat Wolves. Speculation is continuing about the future of manager Claudio Ranieri but the side should be encouraged by its Champions League performance.

Other fixtures see Leeds travel to Birmingham, Blackburn meets Portsmouth, Charlton host Aston Villa, Everton plays Middlesbrough, Manchester City tackles Fulham, Southampton and Tottenham face-off, Bolton battles Newcastle and Leicester hosts Liverpool.

NBL - Kings Show Early Dominance

The Kings have taken the early lead in the best-of-five grand final series against the Razorbacks. Sydney is one step closer to back-to-back NBL championships after a resounding win in the first game at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. While both teams were clearly rusty, the Kings showed their class and if West Sydney doesn't improve quickly, their cross-town rivals will sweep the series.

CJ Bruton and Chris Carrawell led the way for the Kings in the first game and they're the players the Razorbacks will need to shut down in game two on Friday night. Sydney will be looking to repeat its massive defensive effort when the series moves to the State Sports Centre after having managed to all but shut down semi-final star John Rillie and captain Sam Mackinnon on Wednesday night.

West Sydney coach Gordie McLeod has nominated rebounding as just one of the areas his side needs to improve on before game two. McLeod has also urged his team to believe in itself again and get back to playing like champions.

Monday March 29th

Rugby League - Newcastle's Knightmare

Newcastle is staring down the barrel at a season without inspirational leader Andrew Johns. The man many call the best rugby league player in the world will miss the rest of the 2004 NRL season. Andrew Johns suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in the loss to the Eels as did fullback David Seage. Both are likely to need surgery. The start of the season hasn't been kind to Newcastle with Robbie O'Davis, Steve Simpson, Mark Hughes and Clint Newton also out with injuries. The Knights take on St George-Illawarra this weekend.

Meantime the Warriors will again be searching for that first win when they take on Manly at Brookvale. The grand finalists two years ago remain on the bottom of the table after being thrashed by Penrith. There is also talk coach Daniel Anderson is losing control over his team. New Zealand's Ali Lauitiiti will probably return to the side for the Manly match after missing last week's game with a head injury.

The Sea Eagles, however, have judiciary troubles with second-rower Anthony Watmough placed on report for a high tackle.

AFL - 2004 Season Underway

The first round of the 2004 AFL season will be remembered for only two close matches. Defending champions Brisbane beat Sydney by just two points while the West Coast Eagles edged past the Western Bulldogs in a high-scoring match.

The results of the other games involved words like flogging and annihilation. Last year's finalists Collingwood were thrashed by Richmond while usual front runners Essendon went down by 96 points to Port Adelaide. Bombers coach Kevin Sheedy said his side was soft and slow and he couldn't blame the result on missing players like Dustin Fletcher, Dean Solomon and Sean Wellman. Essendon meets St Kilda next week who are coming off a massive win over Geelong.

Another coach furious at his side's performance was Adelaide mentor Gary Ayres. The Crows lost by another huge margin to the Kangaroos and will take on Brisbane next weekend. The Lions are keeping tight lipped on how Michael Voss' knee pulled up after the win over Sydney but will be without Luke Power who has strained his knee.

Rugby Union - Tahs v Blues In Desperation Match

The Waratahs four-week road trip has turned into even more of a disaster. New South Wales has slipped to fourth place on the Super 12 ladders after another loss, this time to the Chiefs. The Waratahs have now lost three in a row and this weekend are facing the Blues in Auckland. The defending champions have only tasted victory once this season and need a win to stay in the race for a semi final position.

New Zealand star Carlos Spencer is expected to be named in the side even though he's suffering a broken jaw as is key winger Joe Rokocoko who has been troubled with shoulder problems. New South Wales, however, will have to replace centre Ben Jacobs who has hurt his ankle. The frontrunners for his position include Nathan Grey, Matt Burke, Morgan Turinui or Milton Thaiday.

Meantime, the Brumbies have retained top spot after disposing of Queensland in Canberra. The Stormers are in second following victory over the third-placed Bulls.

Basketball - Pigs Peg One Back

The West Sydney Razorbacks have shown the Kings they won't be dominated in the best-of-five grand final series. The Pigs have leveled the grand final series with a good victory over the Kings at their home court. Now the series moves back to the Sydney Entertainment Centre for the third game on Wednesday night.

In a boost for West Sydney, Australian forward Simon Dwight has been cleared of a leg fracture and should be right for the crucial game. Dwight suffered a strained ligament below the knee during game two but team management is confident he will return to the court for the rest of the finals series.

West Sydney improved its defensive and rebounding effort in the second game and will need to match that intensity if it's to take the upper hand on a hostile court on Wednesday. The Kings have no injury concerns and, if Dwight returns for the Pigs, West Sydney should also be at full strength.

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