Super Bowl LIII — Upstart LA Rams can upset veteran New England Patriots

Tom Brady is playing in his ninth Super Bowl — quite incredible considering some players’ careers are defined by appearing in one — and he could win his sixth title with victory over Jared Goff’s Rams on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2019

Super Bowl LIII — Upstart LA Rams can upset veteran New England Patriots

LONDON: Five months of gruelling gridiron action will culminate in Sunday's Super Bowl — a clash of the veterans against the upstarts. Here Arab News examines why each team has a shot at the biggest prize in American Football.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
So, here we go again.
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Patriots have ducked and dived their way to yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Given the start they made, it has certainly raised a few eyebrows that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are here once again. But, they deserve their place and that is testament to those two and the consistency that owner Robert Kraft has created in Foxborough over nearly two decades.
So much of the Patriots’ success in the Brady-Belichick era is owed to the aura of invincibility that has snowballed since their first success at the end of the 2001 season.
In the last ten years, New England being in the playoffs has been almost as certain as death or taxes. But this year, for the first time, there was a sense that the empire was crumbling — that perhaps the good times were about to end for the Patriots.
That is looking more and more likely to be a very premature prediction.
The Patriots’ unbeatable air got stronger and stronger this year, despite them losing five regular season games for the first time since the 2009 season.
If they are to win this evening, the front-line is the key. One of the biggest factors in their success after their shaky start has been their offensive line, which has ended up being one of the more reliable units in the run and pass games during the second half of season and into the post-season. Their five main players up front have only got better during the playoffs.
A lot has been said about the Rams’ offensive line too, but Belichick’s defensive genius has served the Patriots well throughout his reign. And tonight, in Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers, the Patriot’s have two of the best defensive players in pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a strong case for Brady and Belichick going out with a final bang.

LOS ANGELES RAMS
As good as the Rams have been all season, they have one thing going against their bid to win the Super Bowl — inexperience.
Experience, which we have seen the Patriots have in spades, really matters when the Super Bowl gets into its critical stage. The last time we saw that reversed was in 2014 when Russell Wilson upset all the odds to cruise to victory with Seattle Seahawks over the vastly more experienced Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, the story of the Rams — one of upheaval and underachievement — could play into their hands. For nearly 50 years, the Rams belonged to the City of Angels. Then, for a brief two-decade spell, they uprooted to St. Louis where they won the Super Bowl in 2000, much to the chagrin of the franchise’s loyal LA fans. Now, having been moved back to their spiritual home in 2016, they have a chance to bring the success-starved LA fans have craved for so long.
And the reason they can lies with their quarterback Jared Goff. He has led this Rams offensive line with effortless, imperious ease this season and thoroughly deserves his shot at glory tonight.
And he has been helped by one of the best frontline attacks we have seen for a long time.
But if Goff’s greatness casts a big shadow over this Rams team, stepping out of it with aplomb this year has been Aaron Donald and Aqib Talib. Both have proven themselves to be vital defensive players throughout the season, when the going has got tough. While Donald is the Rams’s star, Talib has been the shrewdest buy. Of the $221 million the Rams spent before this season, no acquisition has provided a better return on investment than Talib.
Everyone expects the Patriots to do what they always do, but this Rams team have the ability to etch themselves into gridiron history.

ARAB NEWS PREDICTS: Rams to pull off a late victory and upset the sporting world.


Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez leaps during Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in England. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2020

Fernandinho own-goal costs Manchester City more points

  • Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in top four dented by goalless draw at Watford

LONDON: Pep Guardiola’s 49th birthday celebrations went flat as Fernandinho’s late own goal forced Manchester City to settle for a 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace, while Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in the top four were dented by a goalless draw at Watford on Saturday.

On a busy day of top-flight action, the pitch side VAR monitor was used in the Premier League for the first time at Norwich and Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Sheffield United.
It was the drama at the Etihad Stadium that took the spotlight as Fernandinho’s last-gasp blunder left Guardiola in no mood to party after City’s faint hopes of retaining the title suffered another hammer blow.
The champions trail Liverpool by 13 points ahead of the runaway leaders’ clash with rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Palace won the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium last season and the south Londoners took a shock lead in the 39th minute.
Cenk Tosun marked his first league start since his loan move from Everton with his maiden goal for the Eagles, the Turkish striker netting a close-range strike from Martin Kelly’s flick.
Sergio Aguero appeared to have turned the game on its head in the 82nd minute when the Argentine striker turned in Gabriel Jesus’ cross for his 250th goal in 360 games for the club.
Aguero put City ahead in the 87th minute with a typically predatory header from Benjamin Mendy’s cross. But there was a sting in the tale for Guardiola as Fernandinho turned Wilfried Zaha’s cross into his own net in the 90th minute to end second-placed City’s run of three successive league wins.
At Vicarage Road, Troy Deeney’s 70th-minute spot kick was saved by Paulo Gazzaniga before Tottenham’s Erik Lamela was denied a last-gasp winner by Ignacio Pussetto’s goal-line clearance.
With England captain Harry Kane sidelined after hamstring surgery, Tottenham have gone three league games without scoring.
Jose Mourinho’s side are without a win in four league matches since Dec. 26 and sit eight points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who visit Newcastle in Saturday’s late game.
Toothless Tottenham thought they had stolen the points in stoppage time when Lamela flicked Serge Aurier’s cross toward the goal, but Watford’s new signing Pussetto cleared off the line, with goal line technology showing just 10.04mm of the ball had not gone over.
“I know it was only a couple of millimeters but goal line technology does not make mistakes like VAR. We have to accept it was not a goal,” Mourinho said.
Arsenal are 10 points adrift of the top four after the Blades continued their superb first season back in the Premier League.
Gabriel Martinelli broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time at the Emirates Stadium.
The 18-year-old Brazilian striker claimed his ninth goal of the season with a clinical finish from Bukayo Saka’s cross.
But Chris Wilder’s side snatched an 83rd-minute equalizer when John Fleck lashed home after Arsenal failed to clear.
Bottom of the table Norwich’s vital 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Bournemouth saw the pitch side monitor finally used to decide a red card call.
Norwich took the lead when Bournemouth defender Steve Cook was sent off after flinging himself across the goal to block Teemu Pukki’s shot with his hand.
Pukki fired home the resulting penalty in the 33rd minute, but the Canaries had to survive a tense finish after Ben Godfrey was sent off in the 76th minute.