The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 6 May
Tips, Tricks, Picks, and Odds.
Strap yourself in for another week of high-octane sporting goodness
Over the weekend we saw some unreal NRL results – including that thriller between the Eels and Dragons on Sunday night, we saw a NBA playoffs game go to quadruple overtime for the first time since the 1950’s (what a nail biter), and we saw the EPL title race edge even closer, with an 85’ Origi header ensuring it’d all be decided in the last game.
But don’t worry, because we’ve got another big week to come, and I’m here to guide you through the best of the best. As always, in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports – focusing on a different sport for each day – and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis, and expert intuition.
TUESDAY – NHL
The NHL has been anything but predictable these playoffs. On their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, we saw the all-time-winningest Lightning swept by a wildcard team – something virtually unheard of in modern hockey. Through that, there is now genuine potential for all four wildcard teams to be the final four left in the competition, something that has never happened before in American sports.
Colorado Avalanche v San Jose Sharks
To get to that point, though, the Avalanche will need to overcome a 3-2 series deficit against the San Jose sharks – the team who’ve been touted to win ever since Tampa met their untimely end. Colorado have done well to win two games against the Sharks – it’s now just a question of whether they can keep that greatness going and win twice more without dropping a game.
Luckily, they do have the home advantage come Tuesday, and a fire in the bellies of their fans will make sure that this game is no cakewalk for the Sharks.
This series has been a battle of the offences. In the last 9 games these two teams have played (going back into the regular season), 7 have ended with six or more goals, all 7 of those were also decided by a 2 goal margin or less. There has been only one shutout in the 19-game history between these two clubs, and even that game saw three goals scored. I might not be right in telling you who will win – but I’ll sure be right in telling you there’ll be some goals.
At the end of the day, this game will come down to who wants it more. The Sharks already have the series advantage, if they lose tonight they get to battle out a game 7 in the Shark tank in front of a roaring home crowd. The Sharks are calm under pressure (did you see their game 7 against Vegas?), and won’t be worried if they have to play in another win-or-go-home match. If the Avalanche loses this, their dream of a historic Stanley Cup WC run is over. They’re going to leave everything on the line come Tuesday. With the support of their home fans behind them, I think it’ll be enough for Colorado to pull out the win here and force a game 7.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Avalanche to Win
Wednesday – IPL PLAYOFFS
While the playoffs of major American leagues rage on, the playoffs of the biggest league in world cricket kick off on Wednesday night under the lights in Mumbai.
Mumbai Indians v Chennai Superkings
Mumbai and Chennai have been, by far, two of the best teams in the IPL – actually splitting the top spot in the regular season in a three-way tie with Delhi. This will be a hard-fought, offence v defence, situation – as Mumbai and Chennai leave everything on the line to come out on top.
The story of Chennai’s season has been their bowling, with Tahir being the absolute star performer (21 wickets in 53 overs – 2nd best in the league). And they’ll need all the bowling prowess they can muster when they face the offensive power of the Mumbai Indians. Jadeja and Tahir are 3rd and 4th in the league respectively for bowler economy, so it’ll be a tough match for the Indian power hitters, but having a look at what they’ve produced this season, it’s easy to see why they’re also in the top spot.
Quinten de Kock has been unbelievable with the bat this season – scoring a league-4th 492 runs in 14 innings, with 4 of those innings being half-centuries or better. Supported by the batting stardom of Sharma, and the all-round excellence of Pandya, the Indians will be a tough team to beat on the way to the title.
With all that being said, and despite their home advantage, I don’t think Mumbai have enough to come away with the win here. CSK have been looking like a championship team all season long, and I doubt that’ll change much in these few playoff finals. It’ll take a fluke for Mumbai to walk away with the victory on Wednesday, so I’ll have to tip in favour of Chennai.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Chennai
THURSDAY – Champions’ League
Now, on Thursday, we dive right into one of the best Cinderella stories in modern football.
Everyone loves the plucky underdog. Be it Leicester City storming home to claim their first ever EPL title, Iraq winning the 2007 Asia cup against all the odds, or Iceland qualifying for the Euros despite having a team made of mostly amateurs and a dentist for a coach.
But here’s an underdog story that threatens to put all those to shame.
Tottenham Hotspurs v Ajax FC
On Thursday, Ajax will travel to Tottenham’s new stadium with a 1-0 advantage, in an attempt to reach their first UEFA Champions’ League Final in over 2 decades. Historically, Ajax have been one of the most successful clubs in European football, but given the modern rise of ultra-rich clubs and leagues, Ajax have fallen to the shadows over the past decade or so. They’re a team of scrappy youngsters, playing in an unmarketable league, with barely any star-power and a transfer budget dwarfed by some third-tier English clubs. And now they stand one draw away from the CL final.
The Spurs won’t go down without a fight. Since the injury to Kane, they’ve put in a solid display after solid display in an attempt to prove to the world that they’re more than just a one-man team. And, after copping double reds in an embarrassing loss to Bournemouth on the weekend, they need a win now more than ever to keep their fans afloat. With nothing left to play for in the league, Tottenham will march in with their guns blazing, ready to overcome the deficit and crush this Ajax dream.
So will they do it? My heart tells me no, and this time my head agrees.
Maybe I’m just writing this because I want, more than anything, to see Ajax play in the final, and am hoping that by tipping a win here I somehow spur some cosmic forces into motion that make that the case. Either way, I can’t justify picking Tottenham to play in the final, especially after what I saw vs Bournemouth on Saturday.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Ajax to Qualify for Next Round