MX23RW : Saturday, October 20 22:04:48

Three sporting figures in the spotlight this weekend

Sports Mole singles out three sporting figures who will be in the spotlight this weekend.

With another huge weekend of sporting action upon us, Sports Mole picks out three figures who will be in the spotlight over the coming days.

1. Jose Mourinho

Whether or not you agree with the sentiment that Chelsea's style of play since the turn of the year has been "boring", there is surely no denying that they have gone about their business in the most efficient way possible. The gap at the top of the Premier League continues to grow, with their 3-1 victory at Leicester City in midweek making it a 13-point lead over closest challengers Manchester City and Arsenal.

Chelsea's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho celebrates with the trophy during the presentation after Chelsea won the League Cup final football match against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on March 1, 2015© Getty Images

Mourinho has assembled a title-winning machine thanks to the addition of certain key components during the summer transfer window, not least Cesc Fabregas who bagged his 17th assist of the season in that comeback win at the King Power Stadium. Three more for him and he will surpass the previous record set by former teammate Thierry Henry at Arsenal back in 2002-03.

In many ways, the performances of the Spaniard have epitomised those of his Chelsea colleagues as a whole. Fabregas appeared to be struggling to dictate games in the same manner as he was pre-Christmas, registering just four assists so far this calendar year, but his apparent woes have mattered little as his side continue to get the job done week-in week-out.

It has not all been plain sailing for the West London outfit, of course, having been dumped out of the Champions League prior to the quarter-final stage by Paris Saint-Germain, yet victory over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Sunday will secure their fourth Prem crown to go alongside the League Cup won in March.

The cries of "boring, boring Chelsea" may well continue between now and the end of the season, but Mourinho will simply point out the success of his side this term to silence those critics in the best way imaginable.


2. Shaun Murphy

There may be some sort of big event taking place Stateside over the coming days, but closer to home one of sport's most prestigious tournaments is close to reaching its climax. The claim from 2005 world champion Murphy earlier this week that he was playing the best snooker of his life following a comfortable victory over Joe Perry at the second-round stage was perhaps dismissed somewhat. The 32-year-old, who overcame Robin Hull in the first round, is now on course to win the showpiece event for the second time to prove that he certainly was not lying.

Shaun Murphy of Great Britain celebrates after winning his semi-final match against Mark Allen of Great Britain on day seven of the 2015 Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace on January 17, 2015© Getty Images

It is the first time in six years that the Harlow-born ace has reached this stage, and should he go all the way at the Crucible he will match the feat of Alex Higgins by doubling up a decade on from his first taste of success. His route to the final opened up following the exit of Ronnie O'Sullivan in the quarter-finals, with the former world number one admitting that his time at the higher reaches of the sport may be coming to an end.

Another of the tournament favourites, Mark Selby, became the latest to fall to the World Championship curse by being dumped out at the first hurdle when defending the title he won 12 months ago. It means that we are left with Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham, Barry Hawkins and Murphy in an intriguing set of semi-finals.

Murphy has already done the hard work by mounting a strong overnight lead in his meeting against Hawkins, while Trump still has it all to do when he plays the final sessions of his clash with Bingham. Either way, it is a tough one to call, but you certainly would not bet against the Magician going all the way and coming out on top in Monday's final.


3. Bernard Laporte

Can Clermont become the side to stop Toulon's domination at the top of the European game when the pair meet at Twickenham this weekend? In what is a repeat of the 2012-13 final, the Vulcans will be hoping to avenge their narrow defeat in Dublin by prevailing this time around. Two years ago, just one point was the difference, and this time around it is likely to be just as tight.

RC Toulon rugby union head coach Bernard Laporte arrives prior to his hearing in front of the French Rugby Union federation disciplinary commission on February 5, 2014© Getty Images

The reigning double champs managed to edge past Leinster last month to book a place in the showpiece final, while Saracens came out second best in their last-four clash against London-bound Clermont.

Just four points separate the two sides in the Top14 table, with the European Cup finalists unsurprisingly occupying the top two spots at this late stage in the season. The all-French affair ensures that both sides will know each other inside out prior to that first ball being kicked at Rugby HQ, but of course anything can happen during a cup final - no matter what the sport.

Wesley Fofana and Matt Giteau could prove key, or more specifically the freedom they are afforded by Laporte, and the early scoring is also likely to prove vital in how this one plays out. The competition may have a new guise for the 2014-15 season, but chances are that Toulon's name will be up in lights on the European stage for the third year in succession come Saturday night should they play their cards right.


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Ronnie O'Sullivan plays a shot against Joe Perry during their second round match in The Dafabet World Snooker Championship at Crucible Theatre on April 26, 2014
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