ICON Legends – Jurgen Klopp – King of the Kop

While Anfield was full of beaming faces following their win over Wolves on the final day of the season, there was sadness in the air as Liverpool waved goodbye to a legend.

Jurgen Klopp called time on his nine-year spell at the club in which he won eight trophies, including the club’s first-ever Premier League title.

As a tribute, we felt it was only right to look back on his incredible career as we welcome Klopp as the latest inductee in our ICON Hall of Fame.

German beginnings

Klopp enjoyed a steady playing career in his native Germany, spending the majority of it with Mainz 05, where he scored 56 times in 346 appearances. Upon retiring in 2001, Klopp immediately became the club’s manager and he guided them to promotion back to the Bundesliga three years later.

Klopp eventually joined Borussia Dortmund in 2008 and it was at the iconic club where he really made his name as a manager. Within three years he secured the Bundesliga title, their first in nine years.

A year later he led Dortmund to their first-ever domestic double as they claimed a second successive title before thrashing Bayern Munich 5-2 in the German Cup final. The following season, Klopp’s side almost enjoyed a dream European campaign but, sadly for them, Bayern had their revenge.

The rivals met in the Champions League final at Wembley and the tie looked to be heading to extra-time but an 89th minute winner from Arjen Robben broke Dortmund hearts and sent the trophy back to Munich.

Klopp’s exploits at Dortmund earned him a reputation as one of the brightest managers in the world and with the honour of being their longest-serving gaffer in history, he called time on his time in Germany when Liverpool came calling in 2015.

Bringing trophies back to Anfield

When Klopp arrived at Anfield, Liverpool were in a bit of a state following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. But the German didn’t take long to work his magic and he brought Champions League football back to the club with a fourth-placed finish in each of his first two full seasons.

That second campaign so nearly finished with European glory as Liverpool reached the Champions League final but it wasn’t to be as a sensational brace from Gareth Bale helped Real Madrid to a 3-1 win.

Yet rather than let it deflate him, Klopp inspired his side to come back even stronger in the 2018/19 season. Liverpool finished second in the Premier League that year with 97 points, the highest-ever tally recorded for a side that didn’t win the title.

And they bounced back in style in the Champions League, reaching their second successive final and beating Premier League rivals Tottenham 2-0 thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi. The win secured Liverpool their sixth European Cup and their first since their iconic comeback against AC Milan back in 2005.

Klopp continued to build a formidable squad and with a ruthless front three of Mohamed Salad, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino backed up by the imperious Virgil van Dijk in defence, they were unstoppable as Klopp finally delivered the Premier League title in 2019/20.

It was their first league win since 1990 and they did it in some style, finishing on a club-record 99 points, 18 points clear of second-placed City. Klopp’s phenomenal leadership earned him two consecutive FIFA Coach of the Year awards and he also twice won the Premier League Manager of the Season while at Liverpool.

Despite going close, Klopp couldn’t secure another title for Liverpool but he did guide them to the League Cup and FA Cup double two years ago. And not one to go out with a whimper, he ended his reign with silverware as Liverpool won this season’s EFL Cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea back in February.

Leaving a legacy at Liverpool

While many may look at City winning four consecutive titles and scoff at Liverpool in comparison, it was Liverpool’s relentless competition that drove Pep Guardiola to his success.

At times, Liverpool pushed them all the way and at their peak, they arguably had City’s number, beating them in several key games, including the Champions League quarter-finals back in 2018. For a while, Liverpool’s high-pressing, energetic system was a thorn in Guardiola’s side and it was indicative of Klopp’s determination to strive to get the best out of his side at all times.

Liverpool are a club steeped in history and with iconic managers in their past including Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, it seemed unthinkable that a manager could ever establish themselves in that company. Yet it’s no exaggeration that Klopp undoubtedly deserves a place on Liverpool’s managerial Mount Rushmore.

In the modern era of hiring and firing, it almost seems unthinkable that a manager can stay and grow with a club in a way that we’ve rarely seen since Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Yet for the majority of football fans, Klopp and Liverpool are synonymous with each other.

While nothing would ever have diminished Klopp’s achievements, there’s a fitting romanticism about his reign not fizzling out. He was able to go out on his own terms, at the right time, and has left Liverpool in a strong place with Champions League football secured for next season. He says he’s taking a break for now and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be back managing at the top level. Whether it’s in the Premier League, somewhere else in Europe or with the German national team, there’s no doubt he still has the drive and ability to compete.

Arne Slot certainly has big shoes to fill and while Liverpool fans will be looking forward to the new era, there will always be a Klopp-shaped hole in their hearts. Liverpool have lost an icon and the Premier League has lost one of its greatest characters – he truly will go down as one of the greatest managers of all time.

Formula One: Leclerc and Norris chase Verstappen

The Formula One season is well underway now and while Max Verstappen is still sitting pretty at the top of the standings, he’s under more pressure than he’s been used to in recent years.

The reigning champion has won five of the opening eight races but he’s in unfamiliar territory of late, having failed to win two of the last three. Since our last update, we’ve had three races, with action taking place in Miami, Emilia Romagna and Monaco.

The top five remains the same but the order has shifted a bit, with wins for Charles Leclcerc and Lando Norris edging them up the standings.

F1 standings after eight races

PositionDriverTeamWinsPodiumsPoints
1Max VerstappenRed Bull56169
2Charles LeclercFerrari14138
3Lando NorrisMcLaren12113
4Carlos Sainz JrFerrari13108
5Sergio PerezRed Bull02107

Norris finally claims first Grand Prix victory

As the grid revved their engines on the Miami Grand Prix start line just over three weeks ago, it was unlikely that McLaren driver Norris could foresee the elation that would come his way a few hours later.

Having come close so many times before and bearing the unfortunate record for the most podium finishes without a win, he finally broke his hoodoo. Norris’ 16th podium finish saw him come top of the pile, winning in Miami and finishing 7.6 seconds clear of the imperious Verstappen.

It was his first Formula 1 victory in 110 attempts and a combination of skill and good timing helped him on his way. As McLaren chose to delay pitting Norris, the safety car was called in for a crash on lap 29. This allowed Norris to make a stop while the rest of the field were travelling at a reduced speed.

Taking advantage of the timely safety car, Norris returned to the track to extend his lead, fighting off the challenge of Verstappen to claim victory. It was only McLaren’s second win in the last 12 years, the last being Daniel Ricciardo at Monza in 2021.

Leclerc continued his strong start to the campaign to claim third, while the rest of the top five was familiar, with Perez and Sainz Jr recording respectable finishes.

Verstappen bounces back in Italy

The next stop on the F1 tour was Emilia Romagna, with the Grand Prix returning after being cancelled last year due to flooding from heavy rain. Having missed out in Miami two weeks before, Verstappen got back to winning ways – but only just.

The Red Bull superstar finished less than a second clear of second-placed Norris, who is enjoying a strong run of form. Verstappen is targeting a fourth consecutive F1 championship and he claimed his fifth win from the opening seven races of the season.

A late charge from Norris almost saw the Brit claim a remarkable second successive win but Verstappen held on. Meanwhile, Leclerc claimed third place again to climb to second in the standings with his third podium finish of 2024.

Leclerc takes advantage of rare Verstappen shocker

Formula One returned to Monaco over the weekend and there was barely a dry eye among the watching spectators as Leclerc raced home to win in his hometown. The Ferrari driver grew up in Monaco and dreamt of competing along the roads he walked on.

And in his first ever win on the iconic course, he continued his strong season by claiming his maiden victory of the campaign. Leclerc came second in the championship back in 2022 and he’s looking to win the title for the first time this time around.

The 26-year-old secured Ferrari’s second win of the season, finishing seven seconds clear of Australian driver Oscar Piastri. Sainz Jr made up the podium once again, while Norris and Russell completed the top five.

In a rare off day for Verstappen, he only managed to finish sixth, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. His lead at the top of the standings is now 31 points and while there’s still a long way to go, this year is looking like it may well finish a lot closer than his dominance last time out.

What’s next?

As we edge towards the midway point of the season, the British Grand Prix is just around the corner. The famous race returns to Silverstone on Sunday 7th July and you can enjoy the action from the best seats in the house with Engage’s exclusive hospitality packages.

Before that, there are a few more races to look forward to first. Next up is Canada on Sunday 9th June, before we head back to Europe for races in Spain and Austria. Verstappen will be desperate to get back into form in the coming races but if recent results are anything to go by, it won’t be a surprise if Leclerc and Norris can pick up a few more wins in the near future.

Rafael Nadal targets one last dance at the French Open

Grand Slam fever is in full swing, with the French Open getting underway this week before being swiftly followed by Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic will be hoping one of those iconic tournaments will finally secure him the all-time Grand Slam record, but there will be plenty of competition standing in his way.

Carlos Alcaraz is the new kid on the block and he’ll be looking to continue his dramatic rise. Meanwhile, Roland Garros legend Rafael Nadal will be desperate to wave goodbye to the famous clay in style.

Whatever happens, this year’s French Open promises to be another spectacular event and you can watch every ball in style with Engage’s exclusive hospitality packages. Enquire today to enjoy the greatest players on the planet from the best seats in the house.

Nadal seeks romantic farewell

As Nadal prepares to say adios to the sport this year, he faces a battle to be fit for one last dance with an old flame. The Spaniard has dominated the French Open throughout his career en route to being crowned the ‘King of Clay’.

Nadal has won a record 14 titles at Roland Garros, eight more than Björn Borg, his next men’s challenger in the open era. And with this set to be his final appearance at his spiritual home, it would be fitting that he bowed out with a 15th win in Paris and his 23rd Grand Slam title.

But even before you consider the likes of Djokovic and Alcaraz, the main hurdle standing in Nadal’s way is his own fitness. He’s missed much of the last two years with persistent hip problems and he was forced to miss the Australian Open earlier this year.

The 37-year-old is one of the best to ever do it and it’s scary to imagine how much greater his legacy could have been had he not been blighted by injuries. Now in the twilight of his career, he’s ranked 276th in the world.

He reached the round of 16 at the recent Madrid Open, where he was beaten in straight sets by Jiri Lehecka before suffering a similar fate in just the second round at the Italian Open. But while he may have been holding back in those games, there’s no doubt he’ll leave everything on the court in Paris.

The form book will be ripped up if he wins his race to play and despite his recent form, injuries and lowly rank, you can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Alcaraz and Djokovic are secretly hoping somebody else will deal with Nadal before they have to face him on the courts where he made his name.

Djokovic chases elusive record Grand Slam

Since winning the US Open back in September, Djokovic has had his eye on a record-breaking Grand Slam win that would make him the undisputed greatest player of all time.

The Serbian has won 24 major titles and is currently level at the top of the standings with women’s great Margaret Court. He could have edged ahead of the Australian legend by claiming the first slam of the year in Melbourne but he lost out to eventual winner Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals.

Djokovic will fancy his chances at finally clinching his long-awaited record in the coming weeks but he’ll have to do it at his least fruitful event. The 37-year-old has won just three of his 24 major titles in Paris, although two of them have come at the last three French Opens, including in 2023 where he beat Casper Ruud in straight sets.

Standing in his way will no doubt be Sinner, who looks set to help Alcaraz dominate tennis when Djokovic and Nadal hang up their rackets. The Italian’s win in Melbourne was his first Grand Slam and he’ll be confident of adding to it, although he has struggled in Paris, with a quarter-final defeat in 2020 his best ever finish.

Alcaraz remains the favourite to win the title, with the Spaniard hoping to follow in compatriot Nadal’s footsteps. The rising star stunned Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final to claim his second Grand Slam and with another year of experience under his belt, he’ll take some beating at Roland Garros.

Can Świątek be stopped?

World number one Iga Świątek is the clear favourite to win the women’s title and for good reason. The Polish star has won the competition three times since 2020, including last year when she saw off Karolína Muchová in the final.

Aged just 22, Świątek has already won four Grand Slam titles and she doesn’t look like slowing down. Since a disappointing third round defeat at the Australian Open in January, she’s gone on to win the Qatar Open, the Indian Wells Masters, the Madrid Open and the Italian Open.

The most recent of those wins came in Rome last week and she swept all before her, beating Coco Gauff in the semis before defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Those two are expected to be her nearest challengers but they’ll struggle to lay a glove on her on recent form.

Looking back on another thrilling Premier League season

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Manchester City winning the league. Another incredible Premier League season has come to a close, with City pipping Arsenal to claim yet another title.

As we start counting down the days until the next campaign starts (only 88 to go!), we’ve taken a look back at all the key moments that made the 2023/24 season so special.

Man City hold off Arsenal to claim record title

The title race went down to the final day but sadly for Arsenal, they needed something to happen that so very rarely does at this stage of the season – Manchester City to drop points.

And the north London side’s hopes were as good as over after just two minutes as Phil Foden fired City ahead against West Ham. The defending champions were imperious in the final few months of the campaign as they became the first team to ever win four successive Premier League titles. It was their sixth under Pep Guardiola and they could complete yet another double when they meet neighbours Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

For the second year in a row, Arsenal were second best but they improved this time around, only missing out by two points. Yet they’ll be confident of improving next season with their young talismen like Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and William Saliba developing into genuine world class players in recent years.

The signings of Declan Rice, David Raya and Kai Havertz have undoubtedly made them stronger and a few shrewd additions in the summer could be the difference for Mikel Arteta’s side next year. But ultimately, to compete with City you can’t afford to take your foot off the gas and Arsenal will look at defeats to Fulham, West Ham and twice against Aston Villa as key turning points in their season.

The champions could argue they weren’t even at their brilliant best this season but their robotic ruthlessness shone through. Erling Haaland didn’t quite hit the heights of last season in terms of goals but he still blew the competition out of the water with 27 goals to claim the golden boot.

Meanwhile, Foden continued to show his brilliance and was rewarded with the Premier League Player of the Year award. England fans across the country will have their fingers firmly crossed that he can continue his form into the Euros.

With Arsenal likely to improve further and City looking as good as ever, it’s clear that these two will once again be the frontrunners in next season’s title race. But whether the Gunners can finally make up the ground is a different question.

Jurgen Klopp signs out with top-four finish

The title battle seemed to be a three-horse race for much of the season but a drop off from Liverpool in recent months saw them ultimately finish third. While Jurgen Klopp would have loved to have signed out with another Premier League trophy, he’ll be pleased to have secured Liverpool Champions League football having missed out a year ago.

The German has called time on his nine-year spell at Anfield in which he won eight trophies, including the 2019 Champions League. Klopp bid an emotional farewell to his home supporters on Sunday and went out on a high as Liverpool ended the season with a 2-0 win over Wolves.

With Arne Slot confirmed as his successor, next season will be an interesting one for Liverpool. The Dutchman has big shoes to fill and Liverpool fans will be forgiven for having reservations, particularly when you look at how Arsenal and Man United struggled in the wake of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson’s departures.

However, new dawns can be exciting and they have the skeleton of a really strong squad. If Mohamed Salah fancies sticking around and they can add some new faces alongside their young talent, there’s no reason why they can’t challenge.

Liverpool will be joined in next season’s Champions League by Aston Villa, who were the surprise package as they secured fourth. The 1982 European Cup winners are back in the elite competition following a remarkable season that demonstrates the incredible job that Unai Emery has done since taking over 18 months ago.

As well as beating the teams they’d expect to throughout the season, they also proved they can compete with the big boys with a number of huge results, including doing the double over Arsenal and beating Man City, as well as smashing Brighton 6-1 early in the season.

With fourth place confirmed before the final day, there wasn’t a Villa fan in the away end at Selhurst Park on Sunday who cared that their campaign fizzled out with a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of in-form Crystal Palace.

Time will tell how they’ll cope with the addition of high-level European games – Newcastle certainly struggled this year – but it will be a test of how good the likes of Ollie Watkins and co. really are.

A mixed season for the rest of the big six

Tottenham started the season strongly under new boss Ange Postecoglu and their front-footed, aggressive style made them exciting to watch. For a while it looked as though they were going to be just fine without Harry Kane but their campaign petered out, with injuries and loss of form to key players a big factor.

They ultimately finished fifth, two points off a Champions League spot, and too much reliance on Son Heung-min for goals makes attacking reinforcements this summer a necessity if they want to break back into the top four.

Chelsea ended the season superbly, winning their last five games to finish sixth. Mauricio Pochettino took a while to get going in his first campaign at the helm and was regularly bailed out by Cole Palmer, who bagged a remarkable 22 Premier League goals in his maiden season at Stamford Bridge.

It’s impossible to predict how Chelsea will do each season but after years of mismanagement, they look like they may finally have a bit of structure. With a clever transfer window there’s every chance that they’ll be able to compete at the top of the table again.

It’s been a season to forget for Manchester United but an FA cup win on Saturday could give them some reason to be cheerful. Erik ten Hag appears to be a dead man walking and few expect him to still be in charge by the time next season starts.

A miserable eighth-placed finish sums up their dismal performances this campaign and they need a major squad shake up this summer, with plenty of deadwood to ship out. There could be exciting times on the horizon under the new ownership but it can’t be fixed overnight so things may get worse before they get better.

The three promoted clubs go down

There’s no clearer way of showing the gulf between the Premier league and the Championship than when the three promoted clubs go straight back down. The fact that Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton were comfortably relegated in a season where two clubs suffered points deductions is indicative of their woes.

The trio just weren’t good enough and although they enjoyed good moments, particularly Luton, their squads lacked the Premier League quality to survive. Everton and Nottingham Forest will count themselves lucky that they were deducted points in a season where it ultimately didn’t matter, as they may not have got off so lightly in a stronger season.

England face Pakistan in T20 World Cup warm-up series

If being World Cup holders didn’t add enough pressure, all eyes will be on England this summer as they look to put a disastrous 50-over World Cup campaign behind them.

Matthew Mott and Jos Buttler’s side looked toothless in India last autumn and will be looking to avoid embarrassment when the T20 edition commences next month. In preparation for the tournament, they’ll face Pakistan in a four-match series on home soil in what will be a rematch of the final that saw England become world champions in 2022.

England v Pakistan T20 series

●    Wednesday 22nd May – Headingley
●    Saturday 25th May – Edgbaston
●    Tuesday 28th May – Sophia Gardens
●    Thursday 30th May – Kia Oval

With the weather finally changing for the better, we’re set for four days of glorious cricket and you can enjoy the action from the best seats in the house with Engage’s exclusive hospitality packages. And if you’re in the mood for more cricket, there are plenty more opportunities to watch in style later in the year.

The four matches will give us a good indication of what to expect when the World Cup kicks off in June. The 15-man provisional squad has already been selected but with the official deadline not for another few weeks, England’s managing director Rob Key has stressed that there could still be changes.

Pakistan are also looking to build some momentum as they prepare for the World Cup. They performed slightly better than England in India last autumn despite losing to them, winning four of their matches, but they only finished fifth, narrowly missing out on a spot in the semi-finals.

Cricket Hospitality

Archer returns but Stokes misses out

While England will be looking to knock themselves into form, one man will be using the warm-up games to prove his fitness. After more than a year in the wilderness due to a long-term elbow injury, Jofra Archer is set to make his return to the international stage.

The fast bowler was a key part of England’s 50-over World Cup win in 2019 but he missed out on the T20 format. Archer was also absent for last summer’s thrilling Ashes series with Australia and following England’s dismal showing on their last World Cup appearance, Buttler will be hoping the 29-year-old’s return can galvanise his side.

Elsewhere, Chris Jordan is also back in the squad after missing out on the winter tour to the West Indies. The bowler has been picked ahead of Chris Woakes, while Jamie Overton misses out with injury. Spin bowler Tom Hartley is also included, despite never playing for England in a T20 international.

At the top of the order, England look strong with the likes of Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Will Jacks all impressive with the bat in the IPL. For so long, England have relied on Ben Stokes to rescue them with some magic but somebody else will have to step up this time. The Test captain will not be on the plane having asked not to be considered as he recovers from a knee operation.

As England look to mix things up in an effort to avoid a repeat of what happened in India, one casualty is Dawid Malan. The experienced batsman struggled at the World Cup and misses out on the squad.

While in previous years these warm-up games would have been seen as just that, this time it’s different. England are a force in world cricket and they’ll be desperate to prove just that heading into the World Cup. Poor results against Pakistan may not mean anything in theory, but they could have disastrous consequences if they breed another embarrassing campaign.

Provisional England T20 squad

Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Tom Hartley, Will Jacks, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, Mark Wood.

When is the T20 World Cup?

The tournament in the West Indies and USA gets underway on Sunday 2nd June, with the American hosts taking on neighbours Canada in the opening fixture. England will also be facing local rivals in their first game and there will no doubt be plenty of sun cream in use as they face Scotland in Barbados.

Buttler and co. will also play Oman and Namibia in the group stage, as well as old rivals Australia, who won the 50-over World Cup last year. Meanwhile, Pakistan will face hosts USA, India, Canada and Ireland.

They’re targeting their second T20 World Cup win, having claimed the trophy in the competition’s second edition, beating Sri Lanka in the final at Lord’s back in 2009. They’ve lost twice in the final, including against England last time out.

Should England progress through their group, they’ll need to navigate their way through the Super 8s group, followed by the semi-finals. The final takes place on Saturday 29th June.

The early contenders for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

There’s still a lot of sport to be played between now and December, but we’re getting in early to take a look at the early contenders for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

The Lionesses have dominated the award in recent years, with Mary Earps claiming the gong in 2023, a year after England teammate Beth Mead was crowned the winner. This year, the men will be hoping to follow in their footsteps as they target a first trophy since 1966 at Euro 2024 in Germany.

As well as the EUROs, we’ve got the Olympics in Paris to look forward to, as well as plenty of exciting action across darts, cycling, boxing and more. Here’s who we think could be in with a chance of winning SPOTY in 2024.

Luke Littler

Only once in SPOTY history has a darts player been honoured, with Phil Taylor coming second to Tony McCoy in 2010. But there’s every chance we’ll have our first oche champion this year, with Littler the early favourite for the award.

Aged just 16 at the time, Littler stormed his way to the PDC World Darts Championship final, beating former world champions Christian Kist, Raymond van Barneveld and Rob Cross along the way.

He ultimately fell at the final hurdle as he was beaten by world number one Luke Humphries but his incredible rise has made him one of the most talked about sports stars of the year so far. His performances saw him picked for the 2024 Premier League Darts and he continues to shine as he looks to go one better and become the youngest ever world champion at the end of the year.

Russ Cook

While the award is generally reserved for professionals or Olympians, few could argue that Russ Cook’s achievements should go unnoticed. Otherwise known as the ‘Hardest Geezer’, Cook spent almost a year stomping across tarmac, through jungles and deserts, and overcoming life-threatening situations to become the first ever person to run the entire length of Africa.

The 27-year-old ran through 16 countries, starting in South Africa and crossing the finish line at the northern tip of Tunisia. He ran almost 10,000 miles, completing the equivalent of around 380 marathons in 352 days, while raising more than £1 million for charity. While it’s unlikely that Cook will be given the top gong, there’s every chance that his remarkable achievement will be honoured in some way at the event, which will be thoroughly deserved.

Jude Bellingham

Two of England’s finest footballers are both enjoying remarkable seasons on the continent and with the EUROs taking place this summer, success for England will likely see plenty of the squad in contention for the award.

If England are to do well, Bellingham and Harry Kane will inevitably be involved and it will cap off phenomenal seasons for both. Kane left Tottenham last summer and has enjoyed a fine first campaign at Bayern Munich, scoring 44 goals in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Bellingham’s debut season at Real Madrid has seen him net 22 goals to help his side win the La Liga title. The English duo met in the Champions League semi-finals, with Bellingham’s Madrid side coming out on top, which likely puts the midfielder ahead in the queue. Should Real go on to win the final against Borussia Dortmund, a strong England showing at the EUROs would go a long way to helping his SPOTY cause.

Olympic heroes

The Olympics heads to Paris this summer and there are plenty of Team GB hopefuls looking to make themselves a hero. Gold medalists tend to dominate the SPOTY award, with the likes of Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Kelly Holmes and Steve Redgrave all winning it in Olympic years this century.

That could well happen again, with plenty of contenders. Katarina Johnson-Thompson is targeting gold in the heptathlon after coming out on top in last year’s World Championships. She finished third in SPOTY last year and is targeting her first Olympic medal in what will be her fourth games.

Meanwhile, swimmer Adam Peaty is expected to make a splash in the pool again after two golds and a silver in Tokyo three years ago that saw him also claim third in SPOTY. Keely Hodgkinson is targeting gold after securing silver in the 800 metres three years ago.

Elsewhere, Max Whitlock is looking to go out on a high. The gymnast is set to retire after the Paris Olympics and he’ll be desperate to add to his medal collection, having already claimed three golds and three bronzes across the previous three Olympics.

Mark Cavendish

Cycling superstar Cavendish was set to retire last year but after crashing out of the Tour de France, he’s back in pursuit of making history. The 38-year-old has won 34 Tour de France stages, the joint-highest of all time alongside Eddy Merckx.

Cavendish was hoping to clinch the record last year but he was forced to pull out after crashing during stage eight and breaking his collarbone. With the 111th Tour de France set to start in June, Cavendish will be a strong contender for SPOTY if he can win a stage to become the undisputed leader.

Other Contenders

Following Manchester City’s historic treble win, there’s every chance one of their many stars could make a claim for the award. And following a resurgence over the last few seasons, few could deny that John Stones is deserving of recognition.

Elsewhere, the likes of Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton could come into the thinking if they end the year strongly. Plus, with the Rugby World Cup set to take place later this year, a strong tournament from England as mentioned, or even Wales or Scotland may see a contender or two emerge from their squads.

Who are the favourites for the PGA Championship?

They say golf majors are like buses and after waiting so long for the Masters to come around, we’ve already got the PGA Championship to look forward to.

The second major golf event of the year gets underway next weekend, with four days of world class action set to take place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s the fourth time the course has hosted the tournament, with the last time coming back in 2014 when Rory McIlroy stormed to victory.

This time around, competition veteran Brooks Koepka is looking to defend his title after winning in New York last year. He knows exactly what it takes to go all the way but he’ll face stiff competition from world number one Scottie Scheffler, who was on fire as he secured his second win at the Masters earlier this year.

This year’s PGA Championship gets underway on Thursday 16th May, with the tournament culminating with the final day on Sunday 19th May. Ahead of the action, we’ve taken a look at the likely contenders, as well as a few dark horses that will fancy their chances of coming out on top.

Scheffler looks to build on Masters success

Following a stunning performance to win at the Masters last month, Scheffler is in red-hot form and is targeting a second successive major title. The 27-year-old claimed his second Augusta title in three years a few weeks ago and all eyes will be on him next weekend.

Scheffler tied for second at last year’s PGA Championship along with Viktor Hovland. The pair finished two strokes behind eventual winner Koepka, and Scheffler will be hoping momentum can help him go one better this time around.

Elsewhere, world number two McIlroy is looking to bounce back following a disappointing showing at the Masters that saw him tie for 22nd. The Northern Irishman’s last major title came at the PGA Championship way back in 2014 as he won the competition for the second time in three years. In fact, his 2012 win saw him set the record for the highest-ever winning margin, seeing off runner-up David Lynn by eight strokes.

It remains the only major he’s won more than once and he’ll be desperate to fly back into form by claiming a hat-trick. McIlroy hasn’t enjoyed the best of years so far, although he did start strongly as he followed up a second-place finish in the Dubai Invitational back in January by winning the Dubai Desert Classic a week later.

Jon Rahm is looking to add the PGA Championship to his majors collection having won the US Open in 2021 before claiming the green jacket at the Masters a year ago. His best PGA showing to date was a fourth-place finish back in 2018 where he was five strokes shy of Koepka. That result is made all the more impressive when you consider that Koepka set the record score in PGA Championship history that day, winning the tournament with just 264 in 72 holes.

Speaking of Koepka, the 34-year-old has made the PGA Championship his playground in recent years and he’s looking to continue his dominance by claiming a fourth title since 2018. A win at Valhalla would be his sixth major having also won the US Open twice but he’s yet to taste victory at the Masters or the Open Championship.

Last year, Koepka became just the third person to win the PGA Championship three or more times in the open era, following in the footsteps of Jack Niklaus and Tiger Woods. He goes into this year’s competition in strong form having claimed his first LIV Golf title of the year in Singapore at the weekend.

TROON, SCOTLAND - JULY 15: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland putts on the 7th green during the second round on day two of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon on July 15, 2016 in Troon, Scotland. (Photo by Jan Kruger/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Golf Hospitality

Who are the dark horses?

It seems slightly disrespectful to label Ludvig Åberg a dark horse following his performance at the Masters, but he’ll have a tough job repeating the feat at Valhalla. The Swede made his major debut in Augusta and shocked the golfing world by finishing second, four strokes behind Scheffler.

At just 24 years old, Åberg clearly has a huge future ahead of him. He only turned professional last summer and was picked for the Ryder Cup just a few months later, helping Europe overcome Team USA.

Also looking to build on strong Masters performances are Max Homa, Tommy Fleetwood and 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa. The trio tied for third at the Masters, four strokes under and seven off the champion. They’re all outsiders based on the pre-tournament odds but form is everything going into these competitions.

Bryson DeChambeau is also slightly unfancied but the American finished sixth at the Masters and he has a decent history at the PGA Championship. He tied for fourth last year as well as back in 2020, which is the year he won his only major title at the US Open.

Man United v Tottenham: Women’s FA Cup Final

The most prestigious competition in world football returns to Wembley this weekend as Manchester United take on Tottenham in the Women’s FA Cup final.

A new name will be etched onto the iconic trophy, with neither side yet to win the honour in their history. United have come closest having reached last year’s final but they were ultimately beaten 1-0 by Chelsea, who claimed their third successive FA Cup.

For Spurs, they’ll be playing the final for the first time and their fans will be forgiven for getting over excited as they’ve never progressed past the quarter-finals before.

The showpiece event gets underway at 2:30pm on Sunday 12th May and you can enjoy the action from the comfort of Wembley’s premier seats. Join us in style and take advantage of Engage’s exclusive hospitality packages.

The road to Wembley

While both sides have earned their spot in the final, their journeys to Wembley couldn’t have been much different. United have strolled past all their challengers, conceding just twice since entering the competition in round four. Meanwhile, Spurs haven’t given their fans a stress-free ride, with plenty of late goals along the way.

United cruised past Newcastle with a 5-0 win before victories at Southampton and Brighton set up a rematch of last year’s final against Chelsea in the semis. Goals from Lucia Garcia and Rachel Williams secured a 2-1 win to book their place at Wembley.

On the other hand, Tottenham’s FA Cup journey could have been over before it started. They found themselves 2-0 down to Championship outfit Sheffield United in the fourth round but

managed to fight their way back and secure a remarkable comeback thanks to Rosella Ayane’s 96th minute winner.

The north London side then edged past Charlton before another goal deep into stoppage time in the following round set up a penalty shootout win against Manchester City. Their semi-final against Leicester looked to be heading to penalties once again but Martha Thomas was on hand late on to fire Spurs through to the final.

Despite their differing journeys, both sides will fancy their chances at lifting the famous trophy for the first time. While United go into the game as favourites, Spurs will take confidence from their 2-2 draw with their opponents a few weeks ago, with a stoppage time equaliser from Maya Le Tissier salvaging a point for the northern side.

Who are the key players?

United carry plenty of goal threat and Nikita Parris has certainly stepped up this season. The 30-year-old has bagged 16 goals in all competitions so far and has taken on the goalscoring burden following Alessia Russo’s summer switch to Arsenal, backed up by the impressive England international Ella Toone.

Similarly, United may not have got this far without the goals of Williams. The striker has largely been used from the bench this year, starting just once in the league, yet she’s the top scorer in the FA Cup with four goals so far. With Sunday’s final expected to be cagey, her impact off the bench late in the game could prove valuable.

And at the other end of the pitch, United’s resilient defence has been heavily influenced by Mary Earps. The 2023 Sports Personality of the Year winner has once again been a rock at the back for Marc Skinner’s side and she’ll be desperate to add an FA Cup winner’s medal to her healthy international collection.

For Spurs, semi-final hero Thomas will be their biggest goal threat as she faces her former side. The Scotland international struggled to make an impact in her two years at United but she’s found a home at Tottenham and is their top scorer in all competitions this year with 10 goals.

Bethany England has also proven her worth up top, chipping in with seven goals. Three of those have come in the FA Cup and she’ll be looking to add to her tally in the competition as she rivals United’s Williams for the honour of the FA Cup’s top scorer.

How are they doing in the WSL?

United achieved their highest-ever finish last season, finishing second in the Women’s Super League and just two points behind champions Chelsea. This time around, they find themselves fifth in the table following Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool.

Skinner’s side will be disappointed not to have capitalised on a strong campaign last time out and will be desperate to finish the season in style by claiming the FA Cup. Despite their draw with Spurs last month, a 4-0 victory in north London back in December will give them confidence of securing silverware.

Tottenham are just one place below in sixth but are seven points shy of United. They played out a 2-2 draw with Everton at the weekend to stretch their WSL unbeaten run to five games. Following the FA Cup final they’ll finish the season with clashes against Chelsea and West Ham, while United’s only remaining league fixture is also against Chelsea.

Looking ahead to Royal Ascot 2024

The flat racing season is up and running and with less than two months until Royal Ascot, the anticipation is building. The best horses and jockeys from across the planet are set to go head-to-head in a festival packed full of world class racing.

If you’re joining us in our hospitality areas and are thinking about putting on an early bet or two, we’ve got you covered – here are the early favourites for all the key races at Royal Ascot 2024.

When is Royal Ascot?

It’s almost time for the classiest horse racing festival of the calendar. Royal Ascot gets underway on Tuesday 18th June, with punters dressing to impress while hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal family.

With five days of spectacular horse racing action to look forward to, you can enjoy it in style with our exclusive hospitality packages.

Day 1 – Tuesday 18th June
Day 2 – Wednesday 19th June
Day 3 – Thursday 20th June
Day 4 – Friday 21st June
Day 5 – Saturday 22nd June

Who are the favourites for the big races?

Queen Anne Stakes

The Queen Anne Stakes is a Group 1 race and traditionally gets the festival underway. Triple Time rode to glory last summer but don’t expect that to happen again – there hasn’t been a repeat winner in this particular contest since Dean Swift completed a double in 1907.

The early favourite is Big Rock, who has been ridden by Aurelien Lemaitre in each of his last eight races. He’s yet to run this year but he came out on top in his debut Ascot appearance last October, triumphing in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Elsewhere, a Frankie Dettori favourite could do well. Frankel sire Inspiral has been paired with the legendary jockey for all but one of her career races. She’s won her last three, which included beating Big Rock by 1 ¼ lengths at Deauville last August.

Prince of Wales’s Stakes

With £1,000,000 in prize money, the Prince of Wales’s Stake is the most valuable race of the festival. The winning slice last year went to the team of Mostahdaf, who raced home first thanks to the guidance of Jim Crowley.

King of Steel leads the early betting after impressing as he won the 2023 Champion Stakes in Dettori’s triumphant final race on UK soil. Despite King of Steel’s pedigree, he came fifth in his final race of last year, with fellow Prince of Wales contender Auguste Rodin taking the glory.

In fact, Auguste Rodin has come out on top on four separate occasions when facing King of Steel. All eyes will be on their battle as they continue their competitive rivalry at Ascot. Elsewhere, Al Riffa is set to make his UK debut in the race, having come fourth in his season opener last weekend.

Ascot Gold Cup

One of the most iconic races in world horse racing returns to Ascot this year, and with it so does a former champion. Courage Mon Ami raced to glory a year ago and is looking to do so again this time around.

The last repeat winner of the Gold Cup was Stradivarius, who completed three in a row back in 2020. Like Stradivarius, Courage Mon Ami was ridden to glory by Dettori. But with the Italian now enjoying life across the pond, the John and Thady Gosden star will have a new rider.

Courage Mon Ami last ran at York back in August and is likely to come up against stablemate Gregory at Ascot, who won the Queen’s Vase at the festival in 2023 before coming third in the St Leger at Doncaster.

While there’s a long way to go before the race, the current market favourite is Kyprios, who won the Gold Cup in 2022. He made a winning return at Queenstown last weekend and is expected to go well this year.

Kyprios only raced twice in 2023 but enjoyed great success the year before. He won all six of his races with Ryan Moore, including the Ascot Gold Cup, as well the Goodwood Cup, where he saw off the challenge of four-time winner Stradivarius.

Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes

Khaadem stole the spoils in this race last time out. Looking to claim the crown for the first time is Chain of Lightning, who leads the betting having won two of her four outings so far this year.

Dettori rode Kinross to seventh in this contest last year, having come eighth in 2022. The gelding will be looking to challenge this time and may see his fortunes change under new stewardship.

Meanwhile, Art Power will also be competing in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes. He won the British Champions Sprint Stakes last time out, edging rival Kinross by a neck – he’ll be looking to continue his fine form here.

The 2024 Formula One season so far

The Formula One season is well and truly underway and not much has changed since last year, with superstar Max Verstappen trouncing the opposition once again. He’s won every race he’s finished so far and has left his rivals with a lot of work to do to stop him.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton’s final season for Mercedes hasn’t started as he would have liked. Can he turn things around? Here’s everything you need to know so far from the opening five races of the 2024 F1 season.

F1 standings after five races

PositionDriverTeamWinsPodiumsPoints
1Max VerstappenRed Bull44110
2Sergio PerezRed Bull0485
3Charles LeclercFerrari0276
4Carlos Sainz JrFerrari1369
5Lando NorrisMcLaren0258

After sweeping all before him last year, Verstappen has a fourth consecutive championship in his sights. The Red Bull driver has picked up where he left off, starting every race in pole position and winning four of the opening five contests.

The Belgian-born superstar started in style in Bahrain, winning by 22 seconds and claiming the fastest lap. Stablemate Perez followed up in second while Sainz Jr completed the podium.

Verstappen then won the second race in Saudi Arabia but couldn’t make it three in a row as he was forced to retire in Australia, allowing Sainz Jr to claim his first win of the season. Having reported brake issues after just two laps, Verstappen managed one more lap before a brake failure saw him drop out of the race.

Lewis Hamilton also finished early, dropping out after 15 laps due to a power issue. Leclerc came second in the grand prix down under, while British driver Norris raced home in third.

Not one to let a disappointment affect his next outing, Verstappen bounced back as the championship headed to Asia. He came out on top in both Japan and China to claim four of the opening five races.

Can anyone stop Verstappen?

So, after five races, Verstappen is sitting pretty at the top of the pile, 25 points clear of Perez in second. There’s still a long way to go, with another 19 races scheduled, but at the moment it looks like nobody is going to stop him.

He won the title in 2021, 2022 and 2023 and is on the hunt for his fourth on the trot. Last year, Verstappen won 19 of the 22 races and his strong start to the 2024 season means he’s now won 32 of the last 38. He’ll be looking to continue his fine form as the championship goes to Miami this weekend.

Trio of drivers in Verstappen’s rearview mirror

While Verstappen has got a good head start, there are three drivers in particular that will still very much fancy their chances of toppling him. Sainz Jr won in Australia and has also claimed two other podium spots so far.

The Spaniard sits in fourth at the moment but his performance down under shows he’s got the quality to capitalise when needed. He’s targeting his first F1 title and looking to beat his best ever finish of fifth.

Perez currently sits in second with four podiums so far, including a hat-trick of second-place finishes. He knows Red Bull teammate Verstappen well and will be aware of any of his weaknesses (if he even has any!).

He finished second in the standings last year, winning two of the opening four races, and he’ll be desperate to go one better this time around.

Finally, Leclerc finished fifth last year and currently finds himself third, sandwiched between Perez and Sainz Jr. He came second back in 2022 and is also targeting a maiden title – the Ferrari man is yet to finish lower down than fourth in a Grand Prix this season.

Hamilton outshone by British rivals

Hamilton is targeting a record eighth Formula One title and has previously said he won’t call it a day until he edges past Michael Schumacher in the all-time standings. Yet based on his start to the 2024 season, he may have to wait another year.

He’s in his final year with Mercedes, having agreed to join Ferrari for the 2025 season, but his hopes of a sixth title while representing them are quickly fading. Hamilton was forced to retire in Australia and in the other four races, his best finish was seventh in the opener in Bahrain.

The 39-year-old has finished ninth in each of the other three and has been outshone by his rival drivers from the UK. He currently sits below both Norris and Russell in the standings, who have beaten him in every grand prix so far. Once the shining light of British racing, Hamilton has a lot to do if he wants to turn things around this season.

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