Leicester Riders and Newcastle Eagles are the two teams most people are now tipping to land trophies this year, and each has a potentially season-defining weekend ahead of them. 

That’s because both are overwhelming favourites to book their spot in next months’ BBL Cup Final and failure to do so would represent a major disappointment.

Riders are flying high at the top of the BBL Championship table and will be expected to despatch lowly Sheffield in their Cup semi-final. The first leg takes place in Yorkshire on Friday night with the Riders at home for next weekends’ second leg.

Cup holders Newcastle Eagles meanwhile would be even more crestfallen if they didn’t progress since they take a commanding 18 point lead into the second-leg of their semi-final match-up with Plymouth Raiders at Sport Central this evening.

Complacency won’t be an issue according to Joe Chapman who is personally taking responsibility for ensuring his team mates punch their ticket – and get the chance to potentially go up against the only team to have beaten them so far this season.

“We learned our lesson against Leicester since that was a tough loss for us on TV” admitted the guard.

“Fab (Flournoy) and I won’t let anyone get complacent; we have the leadership to make sure we finish the job against Raiders.”

Sharks are languishing second from bottom of the standings with just two wins from their first ten games and desperate to put a consistent run together. And, they will a great chance to start a winning streak with a league fixture against Durham Wildcats on Sunday – one of the two teams they have already beaten so far this season.

Raiders have lost valuable ground in the title race after slipping to a third loss and that places some pressure on them when they host Worcester Wolves at the Pavilions – still one of the most unpredictable clubs in the BBL.

Gavin Love and his Raiders’ team could begin to feel the pressure from Glasgow Rocks who after a lay-off of a fortnight, must try to get over the loss of star man Kieron Achara and continue their great recent run by completing a weekend win double.

However, it will be tough because they not only travel to face a Manchester Giants side desperate to end their slump, but they also entertain Riders in a mouth-watering clash at the Emirates on Sunday.

One team who could capitalise from that particular fixture is Surrey Heat. For they will be expected to see-off the Giants who are yet to win on the road all season when they entertain them at Surrey Sports Park. A victory would certainly keep Heat at the forefront of the title race.

A week ago, Newcastle Eagles strolled past Cheshire but it could be a different story at Northgate Arena when both teams re-familiarise themselves with each other. Cheshire Phoenix is an altogether different prospect on their home floor, although they will be confident of a rare road success in tonight’s’ north-west derby clash at Mersey Tigers which could help the club remain in the play-off spot by the end of the weekend.


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