From the return of the football league season to a rocky start for England in the Ashes, it’s been another breathless week of sport.
Hot and Cold looks at the winners and losers from the last seven days…
MAN CITY’S PENALTY RECORD
Pep Guardiola and penalties. A match made in heaven. Since taking over Man City in 2016, the Citizens have been ruthless from 12 yards out. They’ve won all five of their penalty shootouts during Guardiola’s time at the club. That includes two finals – last weekend’s Community Shield and the 2019 EFL Cup Final against Chelsea. There’s always an element of luck in shootouts, but Guardiola’s incessant will to win continues to help hand City the edge in pressure-cooker situations.
He’s this summer’s ultimate pantomime villain, but Smith’s talent has never been in question. The controversial Aussie batsman continues to strike fear into English hearts, becoming only the fifth man to score two 100s in an Ashes match. Smith currently looks the differential in this series. If he continues to be on song throughout this summer, memories of that magical day at Lord’s in mid-July could fade fast.
Signing Marcelo Bielsa up for another season already looks to be the biggest signing of the summer in the EFL Championship. Leeds easily brushed off any concerns they would fail to quickly put last year’s choke behind them with a commanding win over Bristol City. In a division that looks wide-open this season, building an early-season buffer could prove all-important. Leeds have fired an early warning shot across the division. Last season’s revival looks no fluke.
The reigning champion showed his ninth-place finish at Hockenheim was no more than a mere blip in his relentless pursuit of a sixth F1 World title with a expertly-judged race in Hungary. The British driver claimed his eighth win of the season when he timed his pursuit of Max Verstappen to perfection, overtaking the Belgian three laps from home. Credit to the Mercedes team, too, for making Hamilton pit onto faster tyres at a key turning point in the race. A case of team and driver working in perfect sync.
Hugely popular with the punters. A natural-born entertainer. A winning machine. Whisper it quietly… could he be interesting outside bet for one prize that has always eluded him? He’s currently 16/1 in the Sports Personality of the Year odds and at 48 he still looks the class act he did 20 years ago. 12 Group 1 winners in just 66 days suggests Dettori isn’t even thinking of slowing down as he closes in on his half-century.
The future of English football looks in safe hands with Sancho. The 20-year-old was unplayable at times as he helped guide Borussia Dortmund to early-season silverware against old rivals Bayern Munich in the German Supercup. It’s been seven seasons since Bayern were knocked off their perch in the Bundesliga. With Sancho hitting new standards, Dortmund might just break that winning spell in 2020.
ENGLAND CRICKET TEAM
How do you solve a problem like Steve Smith? So far in this Ashes summer, Joe Root’s men have no answer. A lacklustre opening salvo from England’s bowlers in this series, plus little sign of Plan B in the wake of Jimmy Anderson’s injury troubles, will give Root and England coach Trevor Bayliss plenty of headaches. England need to regroup quickly in time for the second Test at Lord’s.
It may only be the Community Shield, but like his great rival Guardiola, the Reds boss hates losing any game. The German will be frustrated City have been handed an early-season psychological advantage with victory at Wembley – particularly coming off the back of his own side’s undercooked pre-season for the Reds that included defeats against Dortmund, Sevila and Napoli. It’s already 1-0 City in the title race.
FULHAM AND CARDIFF CITY
The Championship proved the ultimate coupon-buster this weekend. Several sides hotly-tipped for promotion flattered to deceive on the opening day. That was particularly true of two sides relegated from the Premier League. Scott Parker’s expensively-assembled Fulham side lost out to newly-promoted Barnsley, while Neil Warnock’s Cardiff tripped up away to unfancied Wigan. On this evidence, it looks as if the Championship will be keeping its crown as the most unpredictable league in the world.
Could the game of musical chairs that is this summer’s transfer window end up with the wantaway Crystal Palace man in exactly the same position? Zaha looks set be priced-out of his big summer move with Arsenal and Everton opting to shop elsewhere. Unless a surprise bidder emerges in the final week of the window, Zaha may be stuck at Selhurst Park until at least December. Will Palace regret not cashing in?
You’re playing the runaway reigning champions. It’s the first day of the season. Keep it tight for the first half hour. That was surely Tommy Wright’s message to his side as they faced the nightmare opening game for any SPFL side – an away trip to Celtic. Unfortunately, those best laid plans got smashed to pieces as three goals in the first 30 minutes from the home side allowed the reigning champions to play in cruise control. Neil Lennon’s side refused to let up as the Saints were routed 7-0. Brutal.
BURY FC AND BOLTON WANDERERS FC
Finally, it’s been a trying few months for fans of the Shakers and Trotters, with the continuing financial issues at both clubs showing no signs of abating. Fans across the country will have their fingers crossed for a positive breakthrough soon for two Football League clubs steeped in Football League folklore.
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