The new year brings with it the promise of a feast of sporting events throughout 2015. Here is GiveMeSport contributor Alex Hopkirck's predictions for some of the things that will happen.
Chelsea to win the Premier League
Relatively cliche but a prediction nonetheless. Despite Manchester City's recent performance beginning to reflect a revival of the poor early season form, the Sky Blues proved in the 2012-2013 season that they often lack the desire or hunger to defend the title.
Manchester United are beginning to at least show signs of the team of old, but are now too far behind to be considered contenders this season and are still in the rebuilding process. Chelsea did their own rebuilding last season, and having added Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas to their ranks, have already shown solid consistency in all competitions. It is hard to see anyone pipping Jose Mourinho's side to the title this term.
Andy Murray will get another major
It has been a long time coming, but Britain's most successful male tennis player since Fred Perry finally begun to recapture some of the form which led to his Wimbledon win in 2013 over the winter period. Recovering from a back operation undertook the previous year, Murray struggled to get back to full fitness and play the tennis that saw him rise to be one of the world's best. However, towards the end of 2014 we saw a revival from the Scot, despite losing in straight sets to Roger Federer at the ATP finals, Murray managed to beat Milas Raonic to get there.
Similarly, at the end of October, he defeated David Ferrer in straight sets to claim the ATP Erste Bank Open. Climbing the world rankings once again, there are signs that Murray is on his way back to rivalling the likes of Novak Djokovic and Federer.
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Should improvements continues in the next four-six months, then come the summer at Wimbledon or the US Open in Autumn, we could see the British number one lifting a major once again.
Amir Khan vs Floyd Mayweather
Amir Khan, long seeking the fight, is now in a position to be calling out the world's best after his convincing win over Devon Alexander in December 2014. And with Floyd Mayweather claiming he'd love to 'shut up' the British boxer, 2015 could be the year we see the two go head to head at last. As for who will win, well I'll leave that to those who know more about boxing.
Ireland to win six nations / England to win World Cup
Winning the Six Nations is never easy. So defending it, especially without Brian O'Driscoll, will be no simple task for the Irish, but I believe they will do it. Their coach, Joe Schmidt, has provided them with the structure and tactical nous to move them from northern hemisphere competitor, to potential world beaters.
Ireland's convincing win over South Africa in the autumn internationals helped to secure a deserved third world ranking and will give them great confidence going into their six nations defence in February.
Wales, the other home nation to beat South Africa during the Autumn are the only really tough fixture that Schmidt's Ireland have as an away match during the tournament. Of course, no game during the six nations is easy, but the fixture list always plays a part. In contrast to Ireland's fortunes, England play Wales away first before entertaining Ireland in Dublin after playing Italy at home.
Should England fail against the Welsh and Irish, their tournament will be over before they've even been up against the Scottish and the French. Ireland, with Wales as their fourth opponent, have the opportunity to gain a good run of form before then and can use this momentum at the Millennium stadium. Even losing to the Welsh could still result in consecutive tournament victories for the Irish.
Wales themselves play France away where historically they have struggled and the team lacks the consistency it had during the six nations wins of 2012 and 2013. The French tend to either turn up for the occasion of they don't, and this year I can't see it happening and their is no point even discussing the chances of Italy and Scotland taking the title, despite the latter's recent improvements.
As for England, as always they face the difficulty of being the team everyone always wants to beat and do not always rise to this challenge for every game. After nearly four years with Lancaster at the helm, the side still don't seem to be fully prepared. Despite a strong platform coming from the depth of the front five, there are still a number of decisions to be made in the back line, most notably to decide between Ford and Farrell at fly half and the centre partnership.
Lancaster would be better to work out what he wants during the six nations tournament, in preparation for the world cup next Autumn, where they will benefit from home advantage. If he can do this, and if the performances pick up (forget the results) then England just might have the chance to lift the Web Ellis trophy again.
Rory Mcilroy will only get better
It saddened me to see Mcilroy miss out on Britain's 2014 Sport's Personality of the Year. As much as Lewis Hamilton deserves credit for being the first British driver to win two Formula One championships since Jackie Stewart, I would argue that the runner up's achievements were much more astonishing.
The Northern Irish golfer won two out of the four major championships last year and became the third youngest player to have reached a career total of four, behind Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus himself has even predicted that Mcilroy will go on to win more majors than he ever imagined and to be mentioned in the same breath as these two greats only emphasises the quality of the British golfer.
After the success of last year and the pace of Mcilroy's progress, I would be surprised if he didn't go on to win at least three of the championships in 2015.
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