Sweet ’16

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-30 5:03:03

What to look out for in the year ahead

Lionel Messi of Barcelona in action during the FIFA Club World Cup final against River Plate on December 20 in Yokohama, Japan. Photo: CFP

When the clock strikes midnight to end 2015, it means but one thing: We're at the beginning of yet another bumper year of sport. Over the next 366 days there will be heroes and villains in equal measure, reputations will be made and lost, and the Internet will not be short of incident to discuss.

Nothing is for certain but these are the things to look out for as you're scheduling 2016 in your brand-new year planners.

The Future of Pep

The manager who announced to his Bayern Munich players that he was leaving the club and the Bundesliga at the end of his contract in the summer has shot to the top of the wish list of every chairman in world football. Manchester City are said to be in pole position to tempt the Spaniard and his passing carousel into their managerial merry-go-round but recent events have also brought the hot seats at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge into the highly remunerated equation. Guardiola's decision is likely to have a bearing on the next steps of other elite coaches, most notably Jose Mourinho, and them both moving to Manchester would be a ­media draw.

Who will win the EPL?

Leicester City's unlikely rise to the top has shocked the pundits and the paying public in equal measure but the unfashionable East Midlands outfit have the chance to prove that this first half of the season was not a fluke. This is the most open Premier League race ever and offers a chance for someone else other than Chelsea, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs for the first time since Blackburn Rovers in 1995. If Leicester don't stay the course, it currently seems that ­Arsenal are in the driving seat and a first title in 12 years would be some turn up for the books in its own right.

Ronaldo v Messi (Again)

Lionel Messi is set to be named as the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner in ­January and with that he will reignite the passion in his greatest rival. Cristiano Ronaldo is currently outscoring the Argentinian by nearly two goals to one and he will continue in his quest to be top of the individual statistics at the end of the season - even if Messi's Barcelona finish with all the trophies once again. Whatever happens, barring injury or either playing making a mega-money move to another league, it's then going to happen all over again in August. Enjoy it while you can, and before Neymar fulfils his potential to potentially overshadow both.

Rio 2016

Everyone loves the Olympic Games and Brazil's hosting is likely to disappoint no one. The talk before the Games has focused on negatives in the city - crime, polluted event waters - and international athletics - drugs, corruption - but as they proved with the last FIFA World Cup, no one holds a party like the Brazilians. All eyes will be on Usain Bolt and other high-profile gold medalists but the joy of the Summer Games is the arrival from nowhere of the next ­international superstar. Expect records to tumble and pre-Games doom to be quickly forgotten amid the sunshine.

Euro 2016 Unpredictability

One of Michel Platini's last acts as UEFA chairman before his eight-year ban from football was to oversee the draw for Euro 2016, which made his dream of an expanded European Championships reality. The 24-team tournament, taking place in France in the early ­summer, is made up of what could easily be considered as six Groups of Death, or at least Groups of Serious ­Injury. The so-called big teams won't have an easy ride and the expanded playing field could spring surprises from anywhere. This may be the first European Championships to finish with a totally unexpected winner since Denmark triumphed in 1992. If that happens then maybe Platini wasn't so bad after all.

The Grand Slammers

Both Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams were one tournament away from sweeping the Grand Slams last year and the fact is that no one in the men's or women's game can hold a torch to either one of them over the course of a year. Is this the year that Serena or Novak can go that one tournament win better? It's going to be worth watching. No one knows how much longer 34-year-old Serena will continue but she is at the peak of her powers while Djokovic is slowly winning over the fans as well as winning tennis matches. The biggest question is whether the Serb can overcome his French Open jinx - he has never won it - but the journey to true greatness for both starts at Melbourne Park on January 18.

Warriors Pulling No Punches

The Golden State Warriors clinched the NBA Championship in 2015 with a brand of basketball that relied on teamwork and a commitment to delivering their game plan. It didn't hurt that point guard Stephen Curry broke his own record for most three-pointers in a season and was named league MVP but this was a team that redefined the idea of a star player. They appear to be getting better, building on last season's NBA-best 67 wins with a 23-0 start to the season, they are currently 29-1 and look set to dominate the court for the time being. Don't be shocked if Curry and company add another championship ring in 2016 - or if the franchise's star player racks up more than 70 points in a game along the way.

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