With December almost upon us many sports are already on their end of season break. Looking around while not quite a dearth the sporting action on offer certainly seems a bit sparse.

  1. Rugby Union – Australia versus England – The final match of the Wallabies European tour sees them travel to Twickenham to take on England. Australia has made two changes following back-to-back defeats to France and Ireland, while England has named an unchanged squad after last weeks win over Samoa, their first win in five tests. As the form shows, neither side has been performing to the level expected and this match represents a great opportunity for both to record a big win over a bitter rival.

Tip – Australia will be close again but ultimately will fall just short.

SUQ – 7 – Matches against the old enemy at Twickenham are always a great spectacle and worth watching. That said, there is not much other than pride at stake.


  1. Football – English Premier League – Round 13 – Southampton versus Manchester City is the most intriguing match of the round, with second playing third on the ladder. Southampton weren’t at their fluid best in Monday’s night away game with Aston Villa and had to settle for a draw. The Saints have made a fantastic start to the season and whether they can sustain their pace and challenge for a top four position will be put to the test over the coming month as they face traditional powerhouses in Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal. City will be buoyed by their last gasp win over Bayern Munich, but the nature of their win papered over a number of flaws which have curtailed their season so far. Without Sergio Aguero, City would be languishing in mid table mediocrity and if Southampton can keep him quiet they will be confident of opening up a significant gap on the rest of the chasing pack.

Tip – Southampton to prove they are the real deal and beat City 2-1.

SUQ – 9 – A pivotal game for both sides, especially given most of the other top four contenders have relatively easy games that they all should win.


  1. Football – A League – The pick of this weekends A League matches is Friday nights game between old foes Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United and then the Sydney Derby on Saturday. Western Sydney have been well off the pace despite their Asian Champions League Victory and are in desperate need of a win. Sydney FC on the other hand have started the season in steady fashion but still have plenty of room for improvement. Melbourne Victory have been in free scoring form at home so far this season and while they sit one place behind second placed Adelaide United on the A League table they will be confident of winning in Melbourne.

Tips – Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory to win the afore-mentioned matches.

SUQ – 8 – The whole round of A League action looks worth watching with plenty of sub plots and important fixtures.


And finally to two bits of sporting news not related, directly anyway, to the weekend ahead. You may recall that Australia’s performance at the basketball World Cup raised some eyebrows, specifically the loss to Angola. Allegations of tanking followed and an official investigation was launched. This week the Boomers were cleared of the charges. The loss was surprising and ultimately didn’t work to Australia’s benefit anyway so maybe a more important lesson was learned irrespective of the findings.

And secondly, a brief word on Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes. Unless you have been living in a deep dark hole you would be aware that Phillip Hughes was hit by a bouncer while batting on Tuesday during the Sheffield Shield competition. He was rushed to hospital in a critical condition but was unable to recover from his injuries and passed away on Thursday. His death has caused an outpouring of emotion, adversely affecting many far more than they would have expected. What happened was a terrible tragedy and a freak accident. No blame has or should be attributed to the bowler, Sean Abbott, with hundreds of similar balls sent down the crease every weekend at all levels of the game around the world. Hughes’ death has been mourned across the globe, with the flag at Lords in England flying at half-mast today. It seems so unfair and hard to believe that a cricket ball could cut short the life of a person in his prime and doing what he loved. Rest In Peace Phil Hughes.


This week’s Monday Musings come to you courtesy of guest reviewer Julian S.

The trophy-laden-record-setting Roger Federer finally added the last, and arguably most sort after, title to his palmares over the weekend – the Davis Cup. In what turned out to be an anticlimactic finale the French team, with the exception of Gael Monfils who won his only singles match, imploded, fielding Richard Gasquet, instead of number one Jo Wilfried Tsonga, in the reverse fixture. Federer duly dispatched Gasquet in straight sets to clinch the tie for Switzerland and, somewhat, justify his decision to skip the final of the season ending Championships last week. On Saturday Federer teamed with long-time friend Stanislas Wawrinka to win the crucial doubles match which gave Switzerland a 2-1 lead going into the reverse singles. Federer has been a great proponent of the Davis Cup for his career and his emotion was evident for all to see when he realised it was all over. It is humbling, and great for tennis, to see such an unbridled champion place so much significance on the event.

Looking to football and it was a weekend that highlighted just how big the gulf between pretenders and contenders has become. Sevilla, looking to leapfrog Barcelona and establish themselves as title contenders were thrashed 5-1 by a Barcelona team plagued by off-field difficulties. The top three in the Spanish La Liga now has a very familiar feel once again. Similarly in Italy fourth placed Lazio were hapless as a rampant Juventus side secured a commanding 3-0 win, dismissing another potential title rival with relative ease. Third placed Napoli also wantonly gave up two points in a 3-3 home draw with Cagliari leaving Italian Serie A league leaders Juventus and AS Roma more than two games clear at the top. On an individual note it was a weekend to remember for Lionel Messi who broke the La Liga goal scoring record as he netted twice in Barcelona’s big win.

Nowhere was this gap in class more evident than it was in England though. What used to be a much hyped derby between heavy-hitters Arsenal and Manchester United was an abject display of mediocrity. Two fine goals by Wayne Rooney and Olivier Giroud aside the game was a scrappy display that outlined how a lack of confidence can lead to poor decision making and wastefulness. Picked by many to challenge for the title Arsenal now need to go back to the drawing board, they are 15 points behind a polished Chelsea side that continued its 12 game unbeaten streak. United will be very happy with the win but know that against a decent opponent they would have been lucky not to have conceded three or four before halftime.

And finally, a quick look back at the one day international series between Australia and South Africa. A deserved victory for Australia in the end with Steve Smith showing his huge potential and the Australian squad its depth. South Africa will be disappointed but can take heart knowing that on several occasions they looked if not in control then definitely in contention against the new world’s number one ranked one day team. While the final 4-1 result may appear to be quite one-sided the contest should serve as a tantaliser for the World Cup early next year. A quick note on the World Cup, Cricket Australia will be hoping that the public are more supportive and the crowds bigger than they have been in the recent series. Playing in front of 14,000 at the MCG must have been a quiet and eerie experience for the players. Attendance in both Perth and Sydney was also small. Only Canberra’s Manuka Oval, which was close to a full house, created the atmosphere players and organisers would hope for.

  1. Tennis – Davis Cup Final – France versus Switzerland – France have home court advantage, Switzerland have two of the top four singles players in the world in Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. The first set of singles matches on Friday will see Federer taking on Gael Monfils and Wawrinka taking on French number 1 Jo Wilfred Tsonga. Not only have the French chosen their preferred surface (clay) as hosts but they have had a number of weeks to prepare specifically for the task at hand. The Swiss duo spent last weekend in London playing in the end of season event, in which Federer suffered a back injury which kept him out of the final. France lead the Davis Cup head-to-head battles between the two neighbours 10-2, but never have the Swiss had a better chance to win a first Davis Cup.

Tip – Switzerland to secure a maiden Davis Cup triumph thanks to their superior singles performances.

SUQ – 8 – Tennis’s most prestigious team’s trophy.


  1. Cricket – One Day International Series – Australia versus South Africa – After a thumping win in Canberra on Wednesday all the momentum is behind Australia to win the game and with it the series when the two sides meet this afternoon at the MCG. A disappointing top order will be South Africa’s key concern, and it should not be beyond Captain AB de Villiers to promote himself up the order to prevent the Proteas having to chase nine an over off the last 20 overs – the position De Kock, Du Plessis and Roussouw left them in Canberra. De Villiers is currently the best batsman in the world and looks to be playing the Australian bowlers with ease, a win rests squarely on his bat. The game is now underway and both sides have made a number of changes. South Africa are batting first and De Villiers came to the crease at the fall of the second wicket and has plenty of time to build a score and set Australia a large total to chase in the evening session.

Tip – I tipped South Africa to win the series and am sticking with it.

SUQ – 8 – Neither side has really fired in the same game, this could well be the day.


  1. Football – Europe – After a week off for the second international break of the season football around Europe kicks off again this weekend. The key match-up in the English Premier League sees Arsenal hosting Manchester United. This is more for the nostalgic as the animosity and rivalry between these two clubs has dissipated in the last decade as first Arsenal and now United have fallen away from the top of the table. The challenge now seems to be for the fourth Champions League spot and a win for either side will be a huge morale booster after lacklustre openings to their seasons. A United win seems unlikely as they will be without several key players through injury but coming off a 2-1 defeat at Swansea Arsenal’s confidence is hardly sky-high. Manchester City take on a much improved Swansea outfit and while the bookmakers have City as clear favourites Swansea will fancy their chances of causing another upset and claiming another big scalp. Sergio Aguero has been in great form and he will be Swansea’s main danger. Elsewhere in Italy Serie A leaders Juventus face a stern test away at Lazio. After another incredible start to the season for Juventus everyone will be hoping Lazio can take some points otherwise the title race could be over by Christmas. In the closest La Liga season for some years the most noteworthy game of the weekend sees Barcelona hosting Sevilla. Barcelona will be hoping to put some recent patchy form and off-field troubles to the side as they seek to maintain pace with a Real Madrid juggernaut that, at the moment, is playing the best football in Europe.

Tips – Arsenal, Manchester City, a draw and Sevilla in the matches mentioned above.

SUQ – 7.5 – Plenty of interesting fixtures happening around Europe should mean there is something for almost every football supporter out there.


All over. Congratulations to Australia, who wins by 73 runs. That 2 games to Australia, and 1 to South Africa. See you in Melbourne at the MCG in a few days.

Australia: 5/329

South Africa: 8/256 (Imran Tahir absent injured).



Finch is killing it. Another catch. 9 for 256.



South Africa now in big trouble. Philander went for a big hit, but instead booted the ball high, with Finch positioned underneath.

7 for 238.



The wickets keep falling. Miller was unlucky with an LBW.



Is this the beginning of the end? Devilliers ticked over 52 when he was LBW’d by Richardson, and Hashim Amla just makes his ton before bowled by Hazlewood for 102. They’re dropping like flies. The rate is 9 an over.



AB de Villiers shows Australia how to close out an over. The big man goes down on one knee and spanks the ball over deep sqaure leg for a 6.



A few big wickets have fallen. De Kock for 47 and du Plessis at 17. Pressure falls to A B De Villiers to get some big numbers on the board for South Africa. 3 for 152.



Up close and personal. Davey Warner signing autographs for the kids at Manuka.


Top Bloke: Davey Warner signing autographs for the kids at Manuka.

Top Bloke: Davey Warner signing autographs for the kids at Manuka.



Guest correspondent, Mouse, checks in:

Engineering 101 – how to keep your beers upright on a 45 degree slope

Top-notch, technical reporting.

Engineering 101: Keeping your beers straight

Engineering 101: Keeping your beers straight


It’s hot. Australia finnish with 329. Great innings by Smith, the last over had it all.


Plenty of action. Chad on a beer run and Finch is outa here.



Big crowd in attendance at Manuka Oval today.

Score update: Australia 1 for 141 at hte start of the 25th over.

Big crowd packing in at Manuka Oval.

Big crowd packing in at Manuka Oval.


Big hitters

Finch on a free hit. Just got a brief touch of the ball after a six.

Finch on a free hit. Just got a brief touch of the ball after a six.



First quote from the match:

Hot, but otherwise pretty grand!


Mr Ussion checking in. So far no reports on the actual game, but looks like the beverages have started flowing.

First beer of the day to get the game underway. Aaaah, beer.

First beer of the day to get the game underway. Mmm, beer.



And we’re off to a good start.

First ball of the test.

First ball of the test.



Coming to you live from Manuka Oval, roving reporter Mr Ussion providing updates of the Carlton Mid ODI Australia v South Africa one-day test.

It’s a beautiful day today, current temperatures of 26C, beautiful, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. And it’s only going to get better.

Beautiful day ahead.

Beautiful day ahead.


Various sports captured my attention over the weekend and narrowing it down to just a few to discuss was quite the task. Lets start with tennis, for no other reason other than it won’t take long. The season ending championships concluded in London without a ball being hit in the final. The tournament finally came to life in the semi-finals with both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic being pushed to three sets and, at times, both looked like they might be on the end of a surprise defeat. But the dream final never eventuated, with Roger Federer appearing on court before the final to personally announce that he would be unable to take to the court due to a back injury. While the crowd got to see an exhibition match between Andy Murray and Djokovic (which Djokovic won 8-5) they were left bitterly disappointed. Though it was nice to see the crowd cheer rather than boo as would no doubt have happened at many other arena’s around the world.

Whilst I can hardly comment on the extent of Federer’s injury it is hard not to believe that the up-coming Davis Cup final would have been on his mind. It is one of the few major honours left for him to win in his glittering career, and with Stanislas Wawrinka in great form he surely feels this is an ideal opportunity to get his hands on a trophy he craves. All tennis fans will no doubt be hoping Federer can overcome his injury to take to the court.

The 2016 European football Championships are only in their infancy but already a number of the established elite are in trouble. The Netherlands secured a much needed win with a 6-0 thumping of Latvia while there were also wins for England and Spain. But it was the minnows of European football who have lit up qualifying over the last few days. Firstly, it was the Faroe Islands who won only their fourth competitive match in 24 years, beating the 2004 European Champions, Greece, in their own backyard. It was no surprise the Greek manager was relieved of his duties the following day. Perhaps inspired by the achievements of their fellow underdogs next up it was Lichtenstein’s turn to defie the odds with a 1-0 win over Moldova. While San Marino couldn’t match the exploits of the Faroe Islands and Lichtenstein they did manage to hold Estonia to a draw, which for a team that is ranked equal 208th (that’s equal last) on the FIFA rankings, would have felt like a win.

Considering that the Faroe Islands, Lichtenstein and San Marino have a total population of less than 120,000 these results are quite unbelievable. But they are why we watch sport, and football in particular. The beauty of such a low scoring game is that any team can win and never has that been more apparent. That three such results all occurred on the same weekend is nothing short of a miracle.

The Australian and South African cricket teams will board flights from Perth to Canberra today having split the first two one-day matches in their five-match series. While both matches ended up being close the reality was that neither ever really were. South Africa’s chase of 300 on Friday night was doomed as soon as they lost both openers cheaply. While they recovered and at one stage in the chase may have even been favourites, two wickets to Nathan Coulter-Nile in one over effectively ended the match as a contest. On Sunday it was the South African bowlers who returned with a vengeance. Again they dominated the top order, but on this occasion there was no middle order fight-back from the Aussies. Morne Morkel was the star, capturing five for 21. And while young Josh Hazelwood picked up five of his own, South Africa were never seriously in trouble in their chase. Australia posted only 155 on Sunday and they have never successfully defended a total this low in a one-day international.

The third match of the series takes place in Canberra at Manuka Oval on Wednesday. Both sides have their worries ahead of the contest, with neither batting line up having performed at the level expected. AB de Villiers has looked the most in control batsmen across both matches, as would be expected from the reigning ICC one-day player of the year. He will be hoping that Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock find some runs at the top of the order to give him a better platform from which to attack the Australian bowlers. The Australians will be hoping that Aaron Finch and David Warner can get going. Both are explosive and the relatively small Manuka Oval will hold no fears for them. If it is a decent batting wicket, as it usually is in Canberra, the crowd can expect plenty of runs (and possibly catches). The news that Mitchell Johnson has been rested for the remainder of the series will only further whet the appetite of the South African favourites, and makes them favourites to win the series.

And finally, while it didn’t take place on the weekend, I couldn’t let Rohit Sharma’s run scoring from the end of last week go unmentioned. He became the first man to score two one-day international double hundreds as he scored the highest one-day score ever in reaching 264 off 173 deliveries. What made the innings even more remarkable is that he started quite sedately, with his first 50 coming off 72 balls. Off his next 101 he smashed 214. His innings included 33 fours and 9 sixes, with his final score more than the entire Sri Lankan side could muster in response.

  1. Tennis – ATP World Tour Finals – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have been supreme so far this week, rarely looking in trouble in the end of season finals in London. Federer progressed to the finals with three straight sets victories and Djokovic should complete a similar clean sweep tonight. Kei Nishikori will be Djokovic’s semi-final opponent while Stanislas Wawrinka will qualify with a win over Marin Cilic. Both Federer and Djokovic have had their ups and downs this year but right now they appear to be at the top of their game and anything other than a finals meeting would be a surprise. Viewers and organisers will be hoping for a marquee final that goes the distance, with most of this week’s matches disappointingly one-sided, especially given the presence of the seasons best performers.

Tip – Djokovic is the favourite but both have been equally impressive so far. Tough to tip but Federer to end a much improved season on a high.

SUQ – 8 – The dream final could be a classic.


  1. Cricket – One Day International Series – Australia versus South Africa – Games one and two of the five match series take place at the WAKA in Perth this weekend (Friday and Sunday). While Australia won a tight three-match Twenty20 series, that will mean very little here with vastly different teams taking to the field. Both teams welcome back their more established stars and will field sides similar to that expected to take the field in the World Cup early next year. Much will depend on how the two sides come to terms with a WACA wicket that traditionally offers plenty of pace and bounce. While fast bowlers will appreciate these conditions, recent one day matches at the ground have seen scores in excess of 300. The battle between the two pace attacks, led by Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn, will be crucial, likewise whether the openers can withstand the early barrage and provide a platform for those coming in later. Faf du Plessis has scored two hundreds and a ninety in his last three one-day matches against Australia and once again will be crucial to the result.

 Tip – Australia are favourites at home but South Africa have a great record in Perth. I think the sides will split the opening two matches, with South Africa winning the first.

SUQ – 8 – No love lost between the players and this should be a great one-day series.


  1. Rugby Union – Australia versus France – The Wallabies second match of their spring tour takes them to the Stade de France to take on Les Blues. Australia may have beaten the touring French 3-0 when they met earlier this year but quite a few things have changed since then. For the French, less than half the players who started last time will start this time around. For Australia, the biggest change has been an off-field one, with the appointment of Michael Cheika as head coach. The Wallabies are coming off a 32-28 win over Wales while Les Blues have named an unchanged side after their convincing 40-15 win over Fiji last weekend.

 Tips – Les Blues are a completely different beat at home in the Stade de France and it will be incredibly difficult for the Wallabies to continue Cheika’s perfect start. France by 7 points.

SUQ – 6.5 – An important fixture on the Wallabies calendar but only the passionate fans are likely to tune in.

With an international break on the cards it is the managers of many of Europe’s biggest football clubs that have dominated the headlines this week. Below is a look at the life and experiences of some of those who ply their trade in one of the most difficult and unforgiving forms of employment.

This week saw David Moyes appointed as the new manager of Real Sociedad. Well, the Club itself has announced the move even if it is yet to be agreed in writing. But Moyes has arrived in Spain to begin the next chapter of a career that stalled following a forgettable ten months at Manchester United. Moyes is taking over a team that has quite simply failed to live up to expectations. Wins over Real and Athletico Madrid hint at the potential of a side that has grossly underperformed outside these marquee match-ups.

Sociedad are one of two teams that have historically only used Basque players. While this tradition lives on at local rivals, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad has loosened the strings, sacrificing identity in the hope of improved performances on the field. This means that Moyes can search the globe for the players he wants. But he’ll only have eighteen months to do so, with his short contract in stark contrast (much like his new wage) to the one he was handed upon taking over at Manchester United. As a United fan I wish Moyes all the best. Wrong manager, wrong time is the best four word description of his tenure at Old Trafford and I hope he proves himself a world class manager in San Sebastian at Real Sociedad.

And what about the man who replaced Moyes at Old Trafford? Louis Van Gaal certainly hasn’t had things his own way. Unlike Moyes, he was given a blank cheque book and so far very few of his signings have lived up to the price tag. Angel di Maria may have come close but it could be argued that Van Gall’s two best “signings” have been reinvigorating Marouane Fellaini and promoting young defender Paddy McNair. The last may have been out of necessity and it will be interesting to see how Van Gaal manages his defenders if/when they all return to full fitness.

With the international break many pundits and commentators have had time to pause and reflect on the opening quarter of the season. For Van Gaal, he has found his record compared to that of Moyes. And it doesn’t make for pretty reading. Less points, less goals and a lower league position. Some would argue he has given United their identity back and made them more competitive against the big teams. A late equaliser against Chelsea and a valiant performance against Manchester City with only ten men are two examples. But while this may be true unless the number in the ‘W’ column grows then this argument will lose traction. Van Gaal said at the start he shouldn’t be judged during the first three months. He was quick to realise the error of his ways, later suggesting the rebuilding job might take as long as three years. This is far more time than he will be allowed. His reputation and standing in the game mean he will be granted more slack than Moyes but anything other than a top four position will be heavily scrutinised and difficult to justify given the EPL is this season’s sole focus.

Ironically, in one piece I read this week David Moyes was identified as one of the so-called winners of Louis Van Gaal’s reign. Why? Because, the theory goes, if Van Gaal is struggling so much at United, especially given the heavy investment in the squad, then Moyes’s efforts can’t have been that bad. Moyes’s success at Everton was undoubtedly the reason behind his hiring at Sociedad but the longer Van Gaal struggles at United the more forgotten Moyes’s time at the helm will become. And that can only be a good thing for him.

At the start of the 2014-2015 season life couldn’t have been going any better for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Last years FA Cup success broke the trophy drought while the signing of Alexis Sanchez was seen as one that could propel Arsenal further forward. Danny Wellbeck’s capture on deadline day was considered a shrewd piece of work and plenty, myself included, considered them favourites for the title. But Wenger’s failure to strengthen in the form of either a central defender or defensive midfielder has proved costly. And last weeks loss, after taking the lead, to Swansea has left many searching for answers. Should Wenger have called time on his Arsenal stewardship after breaking that drought and taken on a new challenge? Has Arsenal, the football club, benefited as much as it can from Wengers management and has the time for a fresh approach come? Or even been and gone? These are questions that will continue regardless of Arsenal’s performances over the next six months and to which there seems no easy answers. Exponents of beautiful football they may be but the best football doesn’t always win matches and Wenger must be more adaptive and responsive.

When Mauricio Pochettino left Southampton for Tottenham many of the Saints so-called stars also decided the time was right to jump ship. Pochettino, rightly or wrongly, obviously felt that in order to challenge for trophies he needed to move to a bigger, more powerful club. And while he joined a club that is wealthier and, over the last decade at least, has achieved consistently better results he joined one that has also mastered the art of underachieving. Pochettino may have been a year late in taking charge at Spurs. Had he had the chance to invest the enormous transfer funds made available through the sale of Gareth Bale in players of his choosing and more suitable to his style then the results might have been very different. But managers must adapt to the players at their disposal. Pochettino’s reign is still in its infancy and he has yet to get his players on the same page as he had at Southampton. One of the hottest properties in the management market, he is quickly losing his lustre.

The man chosen to replace Pochettino at Southampton was the former Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman, and was joined by his brother, Erwin, as his assistant. Koeman has shown that it is possible to achieve immediate success both at a new club and with multiple new signings. With the cash coming in from the sale of many of the Saints most valuable players Koeman went about replacing them with players he was familiar with. Graziano Pelle and Dusan Tadic, signed from Feyenoord and Twente respectively, cost much less combined than the fees they received individually for the likes of Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana. Koeman has guided the Saints to second on the table and four points clear of a flagging Manchester City outfit. And while they are yet to come up against many of the other top four contenders their performances this season show that, on current form, they can match it with anyone. Koeman has moulded a team that is excelling in every Department, getting the best out of both players who have been at the club for many years and new signings. And in his new home he has the benefit of knowing that one of the world’s best youth academy’s is likely to unearth a new star in the not-too-distant future.

And finally, to another manager who makes for an interesting case study. Jurgen Klopp is the manager of Borossia Dortmund, Germany. A side that, prior to Christoph Kramer’s own goal on the weekend, has barely had a thing go right for them this season. In the league anyway. But despite their terrible start there hasn’t been a whisper of his job being under threat. Why? Two simple reasons. One: Klopp has credits in the bank and has stuck by Dortmund when he could have left for a much fatter pay check. And two: because Dortmund themselves are a far more stable club than most. Having built themselves back up after a rather considerable fall from grace Dortmund are more than aware of the benefits of stability. Klopp has proven to be one of the most tactically adept managers over the last handful of years, but his game plan requires him to have certain players at his disposal. With injuries wreaking havoc with his squad, not to mention the enforced loss of two of his sides best players to a local rival, he has been hamstrung. Klopp may not have Dortmund at their peak now but fans and management need not fear, because he has taken them to the top before and there is nothing to suggest he won’t again.