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April 29, 2017

Saturday Sport: Formula 1, Wolverines, Premier, Kolkata Knight Riders

ESPN has reported that the University of Michigan Football team, the Wolverines,  has been visiting Rome.  On Wednesday they presented a Michigan Football helmet and cleats to Pope Francis.   There are no reports on when His Holiness will play his first game with the team, but there are rumours this apparel has been added to his body armour for his trip to Egypt.   Reportedly there is a very active American Football scene in Italy, with four or five adult "pro" or "semipro" leagues.  An Italian sports daily recently had a photo essay of the Wolverine stadium on a football weekend, but made the fatal mistake of referring to "Michigan State."  Their offices
are safe from retribution, since neither players nor fans can figure out how to read Italian street signs.  Saturday afternoon the Wolverines will play a much anticipated scrimmage game at Rome's Olympic Stadium.   Really, though, only the most committed "Blue" fan, would seek out coverage on the internet. 

In Russia, in Formula One:  Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has said Mercedes-GP remain the team to beat at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.  The Italians have great hopes for their Ferrari boys, who were well ahead in all the practice times this week.  The four-time world champion and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen were first and second fastest at the end of an uneven day’s action in Sochi, the Finn having been fastest in the morning.  Sochi, Russia's tropical paradise, will see some well fought racing, as the Ferraris were more than six-tenths clear of third-placed Valtteri Bottas in the leading Mercedes with teammate and three-time champion Lewis Hamilton admitting he struggled to wind up a disappointing fourth. 

In the United States, National Hockey League Stanley Cup Playoffs have reached their second round, with eight teams remaining.  Each of this NHL round again features a seven game playoff between teams hoping to advance to the third round.  Today's second games in the second round feature four of the teams.  The Pittsburgh Penguins meet the Washington Capitols, the Penguins having taken  the first game of the series.  The New York Rangers travel to the Ottawa Senators for their game Saturday.  The Rangers are down 1-0 in their series. 

Only a handful of games remain in the English Premier League season.  Nothing is set in concrete, though, in the standings, either for those at the top or those at the bottom.  Remember, bottom feeders face relegation to the secondary league, while top teams there pray for promotion to the Premiers.  West Bromwich Albion has had no goals and gained only one point in the standings in April.  Up until then, the season seemed stellar for them.  They face a Leicester team this weekend which has been frisky of late, and has a good chance to win.  An already challenged but admirable Hull City team, facing relegation, foresees a tough game against Southhampton.  A very mediocre Arsenal squad has disappointed almost all season, and has taken on the mystique among their followers, which the sports world once attributed only to Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox fans.   A better analogy might be a Yankee fan, who used to seeing their team on top, screams that their team is fourth, in all of baseball.  Tottenham Hotspur have shown in recent weeks how well they can play, and won 1-0 at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.  The Gunners surprised their fans by  also showing moxie with a late win against Leicester, this coming after coming from behind to beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-finals.  Both sides go into this derby with confidence.   

In India:  In Cricket:  The Calcutta (or Kolkata) Knight Riders cemented their place at the top of the Indian Premier League table after Gautam Gambhir led his side to a comfortable win over Delhi Daredevils on Friday.  "We still have a long way to go, most boxes ticked but we can’t be complacent," Gambhir said. "Very professional performance today, to restrict them to 160 after the start they got... At one stage I was tempted to bat first but we have been chasing really well so stuck to that. Every player we pick we pick with a lot of trust, and if you show trust they repay it."

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