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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sport Saturday: NBA, Messi, Milan, Track Cycling in 中华人民共和国

In the US and Canada:  NBA playoffs:  16 Basketball teams enter this season's NBA playoffs this weekend with the return of some clear favorites.  The Toronto Raptors look to have great hopes of making this year's finals with the Golden State Warriors also favorites.   Each of the playoffs is a best of seven series.  The first game of this season's series pits Indiana against.  The Cleveland Cavaliers are also favourites this year, but have been lackluster in recent games.  Ready to pounce are the typically strong San Antonio Spurs and a pair of point guards in James Harden and Russell Westbrook who have torn up the record books all year. A Cavs-Warriors Finals is indeed the most expected ending, but paths are open to all the teams which start the playoff journey today. 

 In England:  In Soccer: Tottenham have closed the gap to five points in the overall standings as Manchester United host Chelsea this weekend.  As the Premier League season enters its final few weeks, there is still plenty to play for. The question remains whether Tottenham Hotspur can close the gap on leaders Chelsea.  They play Bournemouth this weekend and are in superb form right now, with a six win streak as they continue to keep the pressure on leaders Chelsea. Harry Kane returned from injury as a substitute in the 4-0 thrashing of Watford last Saturday, and considering the
Spurs have won every league game at White Hart Lane since October 29, all indications are for an advance in the standings.  The contest between Southampton and Manchester City should be close, as Man City continues as an attacking force, with Sergio Aguero on a run of five goals in his past six games.  In the back, though, they are weak.  Southampton can exploit that, with Nathan Redmond continuing to impress in the forward line. The contest between Manchester United and Chelsea should be close.  Man U have lost twice to Chelsea this season, despite their other successes.  Jose Mourinho has struggled to make United into the attacking force of the sides around them, but they excel more in defense.  In fact, United’s last league defeat was at Stamford Bridge in October, 21 games ago. Chelsea, with a seven-point lead at the top of the standings, do not really have to win here so may be happy with a win or a draw.  Longsuffering Arsenal fans hope for, and have every expectation for, a win over Middlesbrough.  Gunners fans are hoping for finish in the top four, but they have disappointed this season.  They lost to Crystal Palace last Monday but have reason to hope:  19th placed  Middlesbrough have not won since December 17.

In Italian Soccer, Saturday sees a historic city derby, with AC Milan contesting a match with Inter Milan.  They are sixth and seventh in the Serie A standings and Saturday's contest may determine which of them will take the last remaining Europa League place for the Italian league for next season.   Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáenz de la Torre, a Spaniard known professionally as Suso, plays as an attacking midfielder for Milan, and they rest great hope upon him for Saturday's game. 

In Spain, La Liga has heated up in the last week, with Real Madrid taking the advantage in the standings.  Perennial powerhouse Barcelona lost last week to Malaga, 2-0.  This startling loss has revealed a crack in Barcelona's normally polished front, with an open feud being revealed between top players Lionel Messi and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, commonly known as Neymar.  Neymar was penalized with a red card in last week's game, which also put Barcelona's title hopes in jeopardy.  In addition to penalties for treating the officials with disrespect, Neymar has also been penalized for constantly fiddling with his soccer cleats during games, including plopping himself down on the sidelines during the action, leaving his side with only 10 men on the field, while he changes colors of boots.  Next Sunday's Barcelona-Real Madrid contest should solidify the lead in the standings for the regals.  Neymar will be absent from the game, in the last few hours it has been rumored that he will leave Barca for Man U this Summer.  He is serving an extended ban, perhaps he will finally get those boots fixed before setting sail for England. 

In Hong Kong:  The World Track Cycling Championships continue at the Hong Kong Velodrome.  Track Cycling World championships were first held in 1893 for amateur cyclists. A separate amateur and professional competition has been held starting in 1895. In that age before motorcars, the speed of track cyclist fascinated people, who watched them in so many various events, including 24 hour events.  Amateurs and professionals competed in separate events until 1993, after which they have competed together in "open" races.  Events include: time trial, keirin, individual pursuit, team pursuit, points race, scratch race, sprint, team sprint, omnium and the madison.  Australia has so far taken this year's competition in Asia by storm, with 8 medals so far.  In second place, with three medals each, are Germany, Italy, Great Britain and New Zealand.  This is the first track cycling championship held in Asia since 1990, racing continues through Easter Sunday.  

The madison was a six day race, originally contested at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the late 1800s.   Each cyclist competing 24/7  for six days was considered cruel, and so was outlawed in the state of New York.  The owner of the Garden added this relay race, with two partners, who could each race 12 hours, meaning 24 hour racing could continue.  While the relay aspect of the race has survived, the multiday aspect has not, so the concentration is on going as fast as possible to rack up more laps than competing teams.  

Australia:  As part of the finale of the Sydney Carnival, the champions of the racing world will face off for one last day of thrilling racing at the Schweppes All Aged Stakes Day at Royal Randwick Racecourse.  Featured races are the $600,000 Group One Schweppes All Aged Stakes, and the $500,000 Group One Moët and Chandon Stakes, with the juveniles stepping up for the final leg of the two-year-old Australian Triple Crown.  All kinds of other festival events are being held for race day, as well as other Carnival events throughout the Sydney.   

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