Brace yourselves. Sport is set to dominate a jam-packed 12 months of top TV
This year’s must-watch sport on Virgin TV
Dry January… Gym January… January Blues… Blue Monday… Already had enough of all that for one year? Good. It’s time for the clichés to clear off, as there’s more pressing matters at hand this year, namely the prospect of a rip-roaring year of sport ahead on Virgin TV!
Fire up the meme memory bank, for football has another chance to come home when England take part in June’s five-day UEFA Nations League finals. A splendid twist of fate sees Phil Neville’s Three Lions commence their Women’s World Cup campaign in the same week – the first of four global events, with rugby and cricket taking centre stage later in the year.
Elsewhere, Britain’s athletes will be going for gold at autumn’s World Athletics Championships in Qatar, Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome reignite their “friendly” rivalry in another eagerly awaited Tour de France, and Lewis Hamilton continues his assault on Formula One folklore.
All that and plenty more should just about keep you ticking through to 2020. But first things first, there’s an FA Cup Third Round to think about…
Emirates FA Cup Third Round
From Friday 4 January, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528) + BBC One HD (CH 101/108)
From the moment the competition commenced way back on 11 August, this was the giant-killing date marked by the likes of second-round successors Woking, who, on two occasions in the 90s, caused huge upsets against a higher-level opposition. David meets Goliath as big boys such as champions Chelsea join the party, and Ronnie Radford revels in his token January stardom for another year.
Tranmere Rovers or Southport v Tottenham Hotspur
Friday 4 January, 7pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
Manchester United v Reading
Saturday 5 January, 12pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
Solihull Moors or Blackpool v Arsenal
Saturday 5 January, 5.30pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
Woking v Watford
Sunday 6 January, 1pm, BT Sport 2 HD (CH 528)
Wrexham or Newport County v Leicester City
Sunday 6 January, BBC One HD (CH 101/108)
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool
Monday 7 January, BBC One HD (CH 101/108)
From Monday 14 January, Eurosport
Two key questions will be answered at this year’s Australian Open: Will Roger Federer bag his 100th ATP singles title? And can Serena Williams re-establish her dominance in a sport that saw four different women claim a Grand Slam last year? Provided things go smoothly on court, a record-equalling 24th major is within her grasp.
Manny Pacquiao v Adrien Broner
Saturday 19 January, Sky Sports
While this fight might seem a little anticlimactic following the three PPV epics we were treated to in December, if Pacquiao manages to defend his WBA World Welterweight Title against the controversial Adrien “The Problem” Broner, he might be able to lure Floyd Mayweather out of retirement for a rematch of epic (and highly lucrative) proportions.
Guinness Six Nations
From Friday 1 February, BBC + ITV
So, England are at Twickenham for three of their five games. Hurrah! But their two away fixtures are in Wales and Ireland. Boo! In what could be the closest Six Nations ever, Ireland are the clear favourites an emphatic win over New Zealand in November. Both Scotland and France are also looking strong, while Italy… well, it’s the taking part that counts.
Super Bowl LIII
Sunday 3 February, Sky Sports Action/HD (CH 517/507)
Ah, the night of February’s famous four Fs – fried food, friends and (American) football. Settle in for a star-spangled showpiece as the NFL’s top dogs battle it out either side of an elaborate half-time show. The New Orleans Saints remain the bookies’ favourites in Atlanta, but history shows this clash will be anything but straightforward – like when the Eagles overcame quarterback Tom Brady’s New England Patriots last season, who themselves were defending champions following a record 25-point, fourth-quarter overhaul the previous year. Go gridiron!
2019 Formula One Australian Grand Prix
Sunday 17 March, Sky Sports F1®/HD (CH 516/506)
No driver in F1 history has won a race in every season in which they’ve competed – except Lewis Hamilton. The five-time champion continues his bid to become the greatest driver ever as this year’s World Championship accelerates into action in Melbourne. Max Verstappen in Red Bull’s new Honda engine will be one to watch, but it’s impossible to ignore the mesmeric Mercedes man.
Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final
Monday 27 May, Sky Sports Football/HD (CH 513/503)
After 48 games of gruelling Championship action, two teams tough it out for a place in the Premier League and, if last year’s figures are anything to go by, a cool £170 million cash injection. The prize is made even sweeter when a team beats another that finished three places and ten points above them in the regular campaign. No team contest in sport is worth more to its winners.
ICC Cricket World Cup
From Thursday 30 May, Sky Sports Cricket/HD (CH 514/504)
Booking time off work? You could do worse than a holiday spent watching a whopping 14 days of cricket! The tournament returns to its original home for the first time in 20 years with a reduced ten nations, including the first outing for Afghanistan. Can Australia defend its title to make it five from the last six? Quick, someone fetch the sticky tape!
UEFA Champions League Final
Saturday 1 June, BT Sport
And the trophy goes to Madrid… again! OK, so we’re talking in the literal sense, as the Wanda Metropolitano serves as the setting for the final, but only a fool would rule out a resilient Real side, who reserve their best form solely for this competition. Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are looking to appease their wealthy owners, Barcelona are back to their blistering best and Juventus are banking on a certain superstar to halt their five-final losing streak.
UEFA Nations League
From Wednesday 5 June, Sky Sports
In the same week last year, England beat Costa Rica in their final friendly before heading to Russia. Expectations were as low as the squad’s average age, with the only hope being that the boys would give it a good go. Fast forward one year and our World Cup semi-finalists are two games away from the chance to lift their first trophy since 1997 (yes, we do count Le Tournoi). Bring it on.
FIFA Women’s World Cup
From Friday 7 June, BBC
Four years ago, agony followed ecstasy when a defeat of hosts Canada was effectively nullified by Laura Basset’s own goal in the semi-final to Japan. This time around, Phil Neville’s Three Lions plan to go one better in France. And, should fate intervene, both men and women could be playing on the same day this month. Perhaps everyone knows the score after all.
Tour de France
From Saturday 29 June, ITV
Britain’s four-year hold on the yellow jersey doesn’t look to be losing its grip any time soon. They may be Team Sky comrades, but last year’s winner (and 2018 Sports Personality Of The Year) Geraint Thomas knows that Chris Froome is out to regain his position as cycling’s top star. The Grand Depart, er, departs from Brussels before ending 21 days and 3,460km later in Paris.
From Monday 1 July, BBC
To paraphrase a Shaggy cover: “In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can stretch right up and, you know, smash a serve.” Whether you call it Henman Hill or Murray Mound, one thing’s for certain – that stretch of greenery at SW19 will be awash with strawberries, cream and legions of tennis fans cheering on their favourites. Absolutely boombastic.
World Athletics Championships
From Friday 27 October, BBC
Fresh from her clean sweep at the Europeans, Dina Asher-Smith is once again gunning for glory – a win here would make her the first British woman in history to win a global sprint title. Team GB will aim to eclipse their six-medal haul from 2017, which included an epic 4x100m success over the US.
Rugby World Cup
From Friday 20 September, ITV
Remember when England’s Australian coach lived in Japan for six years? Yeah, that’s not really much of a factor with the indomitable All Blacks in full flow. Still, 20 teams will be scrumming down in Asia come September, with at least one upset likely to send the tournament into a frenzy. South Africa lost to Japan four years ago – they face Namibia in Match 15 on Saturday 28 September.
Find out what’s on this week
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