Stan the man: could Stan Wawrinka break up the established tennis elite? Our expert Sam Hardy says he's one to watch. photo: Carine06

2014 all set to be a year of sporting drama

In the world of sport, the start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to peer into a crystal ball and predict the year ahead.

And who better to ask than our eclectic team of Boar Sport experts? Here is their prospective guide to the year ahead.

Football: Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal will be the top three in the Premier League. I predicted City to win the league from Chelsea before the start of the season and I’ll stick with that.

“Liverpool will thus finish fourth but will be denied a 2014-15 Champions League spot when Manchester United win this year’s in Lisbon.

“I’m also going to stick with my original predictions for relegation: Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Aston Villa.

“QPR will come through to win the Championship with Leicester finishing second, Burnley fading and Wigan promoted via the play-offs under Uwe Rosler.” James Bennett

England will surprise many by getting out of their ‘Group of Death’ at the World Cup

“Manchester City will win the Premier League, having fought off an improving Chelsea in the second half of the season. Arsenal will finish just behind the leading pair in third. Man United will win a tight scrap for fourth place in front of Liverpool, Everton and then Spurs.

“Crystal Palace, Cardiff and Sunderland will all go down on the final day of the season in a dramatic ‘Survival Sunday’.

“The League Cup will be won by Manchester United, with Chelsea claiming the FA Cup. Meanwhile, the Champions League will be won by Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo dominating the headlines.

“England will surprise many by getting out of their ‘Group of Death’ at the World Cup before predictably falling in the quarter finals to eventual finalists Brazil, who will lose in a classic (forever to be known as ‘Messi’s Final’) to fierce rivals Argentina.” Harry Davies

Rugby Union: With the Heinek- en Cup debacle showing little sign of resolving itself quickly, 2014 could be the last opportunity for English clubs to lift the coveted European trophy.

“Saracens are the Premiership’s best hope of success, whilst Leicester’s clash with Ulster later this month will go a long way to informing fans on their credentials. Northampton and Harlequins have given themselves a chance with impressive victories in the last round of pool matches, but I think French juggernauts Clermont Auvergne look too strong this year.

“In the Aviva Premiership, Saracens and the Saints are likely to maintain their top two berths in the league until May, where you should expect them to contest the showpiece finale at Twickenham. Sarries to win.” Joshua Murray

“The 2014 RBS Six Nations kicks off in February, and Wales are likely to be favourites having won the last two Championships.

“After their series victory in Argentina was followed by determined performances in the autumn, England are also strong title contenders, while you can never write off the predictably unpredictable French.

“In June, the Home Nations visit Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and America. The Southern Hemisphere then travel north in November.

“With such a feast of international rugby in store, 2014 should be a great year!” Sophie Freestone

Following last year’s unpredictable shift of pace during the hard court season, champions are harder to predict now than ever, but we’ll undoubtedly be seeing a number of last year’s plucky upstarts taking their chances from the get-go.

“Keep your eye on performances at this year’s Australian Open from the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, who’ll be looking to further his momentum after securing his first ATP title in October.

“Most of all, look out for Stan ‘The Man’ Wawrinka, who time and time again tore to pieces the previously unquestioned authority of the top three.

“2014 has much to offer for the underdog. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.” Sam Hardy

“This season seems to offer more than ever as the officially charismatic British number one Andy Murray seeks his third major title, whilst El Matador Rafael Nadal will seek redemption following his ATP final defeat to Djokovic late last year.

“It will also be a defining year for Federer, who has slipped to sixth in the rankings and failed to clock a single Grand Slam final appearance in the last calendar year.

“Meanwhile, in the women’s game, the Williams/Azarenka rivalry could light up the Australian Open, with young hopefuls such as Donna Vekić looking to make a big impression.

“Stay tuned: this will be a good one.” Tim Arstall

Formula One: “In the year that marks racing legend Ayrton Senna’s 20th anniversary, 2014 is set to be a fittingly thrilling year for Formula One.

“As the sport evolves through a series of engine modifications and regulation changes, many now speculate, and even hope, that Sebastian Vettel’s reign will end.

“Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari may make him a more potent contender if his car allows. Force India, meanwhile, look to be a dark horse in the pack with their reliable and understated drivers, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.

“Such alliances may leave Vettel glaring into his wing mirror more and more in fear of real competition – yet still he will probably only get to see their reflection from the comfort of first place.” Chloe Wynne

“For many, the major engine reg- ulation changes for 2014 will derail Sebastian Vettel’s winning train. I believe, however, that Vettel will once again be champion, owing to his technical know-how and ability to handle a rear end happy car.

“I also predict fireworks at Ferrari with their new line-up and a return to form for McLaren, particularly with promising rookie Kevin Magnussen.

“At Force India, Hulkenburg and Perez will show their true class along with Toro Rosso new boy Daniel Kvyat. Meanwhile, I feel Daniel Ricciardo will struggle at Red Bull, as will Pastor Maldonado at Lotus.

“Predictably, though, the only certainty is unpredictability!” Andrew Tyrrell

Cricket: “2013 saw the retirement of many great players in world cricket. 2014 will therefore be a year of rebuilding for many squads, both in the longer and shorter formats of the game.

“One of the largest events in 2014 will be the ICC World Twenty20 Championship, hosted by Bangladesh. In these sub continental conditions – flat, slow tracks – England will be a dark horse.

“They will require players such as Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan, with their vast experiences in IPL cricket, to score heavily and consistently.

“If they can deliver, England have the potential to emulate the successes of 2010.” Manan Narula

“2014 will be a fractious one for the England cricket team, a year of transition as the fallout from the Ashes continues.

“Andy Flower will be given the choice to carry on by the ECB, but it looks inevitable that he will leave his post as head coach, to be replaced by Ashley Giles, who is currently in charge of the one-day side.

“England must persevere with the enigmatic Kevin Pietersen, currently their only match-winner. Jos Buttler will come into the side, as will Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali, whose superb footwork and useful off-breaks will prove a revelation in the summer test series against India, albeit in vain.” Ed Higgs





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