PREVIEW: Super Bowl XLVIII – Broncos v Seahawks

AMERICAN FOOTBALL – The following is a preview to Super Bowl XLVIII, which will take place on Sunday, 2 February, and will feature the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Denver Broncos – Seattle Seahawks (MetLife Stadium, 2 February)

Venue
> The 48th edition of the Super Bowl (XLVIII) is the first to be played in the state of New Jersey and/or the New York region. Four players involved in the game were born in either New Jersey or New York and the NFL’s headquarters are situated in the heart of Manahattan (345 Park Avenue).
> There have been three venues that hosted Super Bowls, that are geographically north of East Rutherford, New Jersey. However, those three venues all hosted the Super Bowl indoors, making MetLife Stadium the northernmost venue to host a Super Bowl to be played outdoors.
> The coldest Super Bowl in history was SB VI, played on 16 January 1972, in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. The temperature was 39 Fahrenheit (4C). Current weather reports from New York suggest that that record will be broken.
> Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will hope to win a Super Bowl in brother Eli’s home stadium. Eli has already won a Super Bowl on Peyton’s turf triumphing in Indianapolis when Peyton was still playing for the Colts.

Head-to-head
> These teams have met on many occasions, as they shared the same division for 25 years (1977-2002). With the most recent realignment inn 2002, the Seattle Seahawks moved to the NFC West.
> Their most recent competitive meeting goes back to 19 September 2010, when Denver defeated Seattle 31-14 at home.
> These teams have met once before in the playoffs. In the Wildcard Round in 1983, Seattle eliminated Denver 31-7 in Seattle.

Denver Broncos
> The Denver Broncos are going to their seventh Super Bowl, which leaves them one shy of the record of eight by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
> Denver can become the first NFL franchise to lose five Super Bowls.
> Peyton Manning will become the second oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history, behind John Elway, who is currently the Broncos executive that brought Manning to Denver.
> Manning can become the third quarterback in Super Bowl history to represent different teams, behind Craig Morton (Dallas and Denver) and Kurt Warner (St. Louis and Arizona).
> Head coach John Fox has been in one previous Super Bowl. On 1 February 2004, his Carolina Panthers lost to the New England Patriots 32-29.
> Fox can join three other head coaches in losing multiple Super Bowls without winning one. The other three, remarkably, all have an 0-4 record: Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Dan Reeves.
> Denver’s Super Bowl roster contains four players with SB experience: quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Wes Welker, tight end Jacob Tamme and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Manning is the only among the four to have won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Seattle Seahawks
> The Seattle Seahawks are going to their second Super Bowl. They lost SB XL 21-10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
> If Seattle loses this game, it will become the fifth team to play in multiple Super Bowls without ever winning one. The four franchises that belong to this club are the Buffalo Bills (0-4), Minnesota Vikings (0-4), Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) and Philadelphia Eagles (0-2).
> The Seattle Seahawks become the first team to submit a Super Bowl roster featuring 53 players with no Super Bowl experience whatsoever since the 1990/1991 Buffalo Bills.
> Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has not won a game at this stadium in nearly 20 years. He last managed that on 20 November 1994 as head coach of the New York Jets. The 1994/1995 season was Carroll’s first as a head coach in the NFL.
> Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was selected in the 2012 NFL Draft with the 75th overall pick and as the sixth quarterback of that draft class. The quarterback picked before him was Brock Osweiler (57th overall) who is currently Peyton Manning’s backup at the Broncos.
> Seattle and Denver will be the fourth top seeds in the Super Bowl since the current playoff format was installed and only the second in the last 20 years (Saints v Colts in SB XLIV, 7 Feb 2010).

PREVIEW: 2014 Six Nations Championship – Week 1

RUGBY UNION – The following are previews for the Week 1 matches of the 2014 Six Nations Championship.

Wales – Italy (Millennium Stadium, Saturday, 1 February)

Head-to-head
> Wales have won the last six Six Nations encounters between these two. The overall head-to-head record in 14 previous 6N meetings is 11 wins to Wales, two to Italy and one draw.
> That one stalemate is the only result Italy have ever achieved in a Six Nations match, or any Test match, in Wales. They drew 18-18 on 11 March 2006. Both of the Azzurri’s 6N victories over Wales came at the Stadio Flaminio (in 2003 and 2007).
> Wales have never failed to register less than two tries in any Six Nations match against Italy.

Wales
> Wales are the defending champions from 2012 and 2013. Last year, they joined England (2000-2001) and France (2006-2007) as teams to retain the Six Nations Championship.
> Wales can become the first team to win the Six Nations in three successive seasons and become the first team since France (1986-1989) to win this competition, or its predecessor Five Nations, at least three years in a row.
> France’s run of four successive championships in the late 1980s included two titles that were shared. No team has ever won three outright championships in a row in the history of the Home Nations/Five Nations/Six Nations.
> Last year, Wales won the Six Nations Championship despite registering only nine tries in five matches, their lowest output in any season since the competition expanded to six teams in 2000.
> Wales have won nine of their last 10 Six Nations matches, the one exception being their defeat against Ireland on the opening matchday last season.
> Wales have conceded nine or fewer points in five of their last seven 6N matches.
> Wales’ next penalty goal will be their 200th in Six Nations rugby (2000-present). Only France (207 penalty goals) have kicked in excess of 200 penalty goals in the competition.
> In the Wales v Italy 6N encounter on 20 March 2010, Tom Prydie became the youngest player in 6N history at 18 years and 25 days. He also became the youngest ever player to represent Wales.
> Wales have won only one of their last four season openers in the Six Nations and five of 14 total.

Italy
> Italy have collected one win and nine defeats from their last 10 Six Nations season openers.
> The one victory in that stretch came last season, when Italy defeated France in Rome.
> In 2013, Italy avoided the Wooden Spoon for the second straight 6N season.
> Marco Bortolami can become the fifth Italian and the 29th player overall to reach 100 Test caps.
> That would see him join countrymen Alessandro Troncon, Andrea Lo Cicero, Martín Castrogiovianni and Sergio Parisse.
> Italy can become the third country, and the first from Europe, behind Australia and New Zealand, to produce five Test centurions.

France – England (Stade de France, Saturday, 1 February)

Head-to-head
> England have won each of their last three Six Nations encounters with France, dating back to a 12-10 France victory on 20 March 2010, a win that secured the Grand Slam for France.
> Their head-to-head in record in 14 previous 6N encounters: 9-5 (no draws) in England’s favour.
> Even so, France have a winning record over England in 6N matches at the Stade de France: 4-3.
> This will be the 98th Test match between these countries. Of the previous 97, England have won 53, France 35 and there have been seven draws.
> England’s last Test defeat against France came in the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup (19-12).
> France need only nine points to reach 1,500 at the Stade de France. They have lost three of their last four Test matches at this venue.

France
> France are coming off their worst ever season in the Six Nations era, finishing last in the competition in 2013. It was the first time since 1999 (the last Five Nations season) that they collected the Wooden Spoon in the Five Nations/Six Nations.
> Their dismal 2013 campaign came only three years after their Grand Slam winning effort in 2010.
> France still own the best track record in Six Nations rugby: 47 wins and two draws (21 defeats) from 70 matches. England are right behind them on 47 wins and one draw (22 defeats).
> France’s track record in Test matches in 2013: two wins, one draw and eight defeats. Both victories came at home, against Scotland and Tonga.
> Philippe Saint-André has faced England 10 times in Test matches, eight times as a player and twice as a head coach. He has ended up on the losing side in eight of those 10 Test matches.
> Wesley Fofana has scored a try in each of his last two Tests against England. Six France players, including Philippe Saint-André, have scored more than two career Test tries against England.
> Pascal Papé can pick up his 50th cap for France. He made his Test debut on 14 February 2004.

England
> England have scored only one try in their last four Six Nations matches combined. That one try was registered by Manu Tuilagi against France on 23 February 2013.
> England have averaged 9.3 tries over their last seven 6N campaigns (2007-2013), whilst averaging 19.4 tries over their first seven (2000-2006).
> England’s five 6N tries in 2013 were their fewest in a Six Nations season. They had six in 2010.
> England have finished second in four of their last six 6N campaigns, including the last two.
> England have won eight of their last 10 Six Nations matches, the two exceptions being defeats to Wales. England also won eight of their 10 Test matches in 2013, the exceptions being the 6N defeat against Wales and a 30-22 loss against the All Blacks to close out the season.
> England have won 12 of their 14 season openers in the Six Nations, including each of the last five.
> In 22 matches with Stuart Lancaster in charge, England have collected 14 wins, one draw and seven defeats. Five of their seven defeats came against southern hemisphere nations, the other two came against Wales.

Ireland – Scotland (Aviva Stadium, Sunday, 2 February)

Head-to-head
> In 14 previous Six Nations meetings between these two, Ireland have collected 11 victories and three defeats.
> Scotland’s only Six Nations victory over Ireland in an away match was their 23-20 triumph at Croke Park on 20 March 2010.
> Scotland’s other two victories came at Murrayfield, including last season’s 12-8 win. Scotland have yet to record consecutive 6N victories over Ireland. Scotland’s last string of victories over Ireland in the Five Nations/Six Nations came in the late 1990s, when they won five in a row against Ireland.
> These sides have met in 128 Test matches total, with Scotland winning 66 and Ireland winning 57. There have been three draws.

Ireland
> Ireland are coming off their most unsuccessful campaign in the Six Nations, finishing in fifth place in 2013. That supplanted a fourth place finish in 2008, one they responded to by winning the Grand Slam the next year.
> Ireland won their opening match to the Six Nations in eight of the previous nine seasons, the exception being a home defeat against Wales in 2012.
> Brian O’Driscoll has been included in Ireland’s squad. The veteran Centre has amassed 136 Test appearances and needs another three to equal the record of 139 by Australia’s George Gregan.
> O’Driscoll needs one more Test appearance to establish a record for Ireland at 129, by which he would overtake O’Gara’s 128. O’Driscoll has also represented the Lions in eight Tests.
> O’Driscoll will be taking part in the Six Nations for the 14th time, equalling the competition record by countryman Ronan O’Gara. The latter had been the only player to have featured in each of the first 14 seasons of the Six Nations, but he has not been called up to the squad this year.
> O’Driscoll has played in all but one of Ireland’s 14 Six Nations seasons. He missed the entire 2012 campaign due to injury.
> O’Driscoll has played in 60 Six Nations matches. The competition record for the Five/Six Nations is 63 by O’Gara.
> O’Driscoll already holds the record for most tries in the Five/Six Nations (26).
> O’Driscoll’s last multiple-try match in the Six Nations came almost 10 years ago. On 22 February 2004, he crossed over twice against Wales. Since that day, a player recorded at least two tries in a 6N match on 46 occasions, by 35 different players.

Scotland
> Scotland came third in the Six Nations last year, equalling their best finish in the competition. In 2001 and 2006, they also collected a bronze medal.
> Last season’s campaign was also the first since 2006, in which they managed to rack up more than one victory.
> Scotland’s last championship came in the last year before the expansion to the Six Nations. In 1999, they emerged victorious in the Five Nations.
> Scotland have started only one of their previous 6N campaigns with a victory, their 2006 home win over France. All other 13 openers ended in defeat for Scotland.
> David Denton, Matt Scott and Ross Rennie all made their Test debuts against Ireland.

REVIEW: Spurs equal over 20 year old PL club record

FOOTBALL – Tottenham Hotspur lost 5-1 at home against Manchester City on Wednesday, equalling a club record of conceding 5+ goals in three Premier League matches in a single season – they previously did so in 1992/93.

Manchester City have now scored 5+ goals in four Premier League matches this season, equaling a PL season club record (2011/12). The all-time Premier League record is held by Chelsea: six matches with 5+ goals in 2009/10.

INFOGRAPHIC: Demchenko & Kasai make record breaking 7th appearance at Olympic Winter Games

OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES – At Sochi 2014 Russia’s Albert Demchenko (Luge) and Japan’s Noriaki Kasai (Ski Jumping) will make a record 7th appearance at the Olympic Winter Games. Click on the picture to view the FULL Infographic on the subject.

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REVIEW: Liverpool record biggest win v Everton in 32 years

FOOTBALL – Liverpool recorded their biggest top-flight Merseyside derby win since November 1982 (won 5-0 away), and biggest at home since March 1972 (also won 4-0). Check for more stats here.

> Liverpool have notched 57 goals from their opening 23 matches for the first time in the PL, and the first time in the top-flight since 1987/88. They have only scored more top-flight goals at this stage in 1982/83 (58).
> Steven Gerrard scored his 8th PL goal against Everton. He is the PL top scorer in this fixture. He has only scored more goals against Aston Villa (12) and also has 8 vs Newcastle.
> Luis Suarez now has 23 league goals in 18 Premier League matches – he has matched his total of 23 goals last season, achieved in 33 matches.
> Daniel Sturridge has now scored a goal in four consecutive Premier League matches. He has scored in 12 of his 15 PL matches this season.
> Sturridge became the second player to score more than once in the first-half of a PL Merseyside derby, after Robbie Fowler in April 1999 in Liverpool’s 3-2 home win.
> Gerrard played in a PL record 28th Merseyside derby, surpassing Jamie Carragher’s 27.

REVIEW: AC Milan win two successive league matches for the first time this season

FOOTBALL – On Sunday, AC Milan came back from 1-0 down to win at 2-1 at Cagliari. Milan have now won both of their Serie A matches under newly appointed coach Clarence Seedorf. Moreover, this is the first time this season Milan win two successive league matches.

> Milan had last won (three) successive Serie A matches in April – May 2013, under coach Massimiliano Allegri.
> AC Milan came back from behind to win for the second time this Serie A season: 3-1 win at Catania in December and 2-1 win today at Cagliari.
> Milan are now unbeaten in 23 successive Serie A matches (home and away) against Cagliari.

REVIEW: Twins strike simultaneously in Bundesliga

FOOTBALL: Twins Lars and Sven Bender, born 12 minutes apart in 1989, scored only one minute apart in the Bundesliga today, for Bayer Leverkusen (4’) and Borussia Dortmund (5’) respectively. 

> On 5 November 2011 the Bender twins also scored on the same day in the Bundesliga.

> Dortmund’s last 9 goals in official matches have been scored by nine different players – Schieber, Hofmann (Cup), Lewandowski, Grosskreutz (CL), Aubameyang, Piszczek, Reus, Bender and Sahin (League).