By Seany_boy
December 6 2017

It's that time again, Autumn Internationals all finished, and two weeks of Premiership action which can only mean the return of the European Champions Cup. This Sunday at 3pm showcases the top two teams in Europe as it's a repeat of last seasons Final Saracens v Clermont! Rugby is strange because how often do the finalists of last year's competition end up in the same group/pool?

Well it's happened and this is the first game in a spectacular double header, to take place at Allianz Park. Clermont although hampered by Injuries to key players ( Laidlaw, Lopez, Cassang and McAllister to name a few) are still dangerous and clear favourites on recent form, who will be chomping at the bit to take on an out of form Saracens and grab an important away win. Over the last six games Clermonts record is four wins, one draw and one loss, contrasting to Saracens last six which is one win and five losses, the last five were lost by Saracens on the bounce, which is the first time in ten years this has happened! A victory over London Irish is all Sarries have to shout about in recent times.

Clermont also statistically over the last eight meetings are ahead! Five wins for Clermont, three wins for Saracens although that said two of those victories for Sarries were the 46 - 6 thrashing at Twickenham and last year's Final 28 - 17. 

This game is crucial to both teams and with the likely outcome for the team that is  victorious, to go  on to top the group overall and qualify for the knock out stages.  As briefly mentioned earlier, Clermont are favourites, they have danger men throughout their squad even though they have Injuries, they are ones to watch and could well beat the current European champions on their own patch. Dave Strettle may be leaving at the end of season but he would love to play on the 4G pitch against his former employers one last time, and Saracens are well aware of his finishing skills. Clermont also have Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana who will punish any loose play and kicks and then of course there is Nick Abenandon, who seems to be similar to fine wine and get better with age! He crossed over in the final last year and will be looking to cross the the whitewash this week at Allianz Park. A special mention must also go to the Blue, Yellow and White army, which is of course the Clermont fans! Absolutely incredible bunch of fans and if enough of them travel they are likely to make more noise than 9,000 home fans and perhaps rock Allianz to the ground ( bit like they did a few years ago when they came to Vicarage Road) they are truly fantastic and possibly the most passionate fans in world club rugby. 
Onto Saracens. Who haven't been at the races recently and have lead at half time on the past three occasions (against Gloucester, Exeter and Harlequins) only to end up losing in the last few minutes. This is unlike the current European Champions as normally they are clinical and when they get a lead they tend to suck the life out of their opponents. Last week however Saracens were completely undone by three tremendous Danny Care kicks which were executed to perfection. and fair play to him! Losing has become a habit for Sarries but that means they will be up for this one more and looking to bounce back and although hampered themselves by Injuries (Schalk Brits, Maro Itoje, Liam Williams, Billy Vunipola and Mike Rhodes) they have the ability to win. If Saracens do lose then they have the tough task of going to France to and winning to stay in the competition and keep their hopes alive to have the chance to win a third successive champions cup trophy. Saracens need to go back to basics which has served them well over recent seasons and find the spark which has been missing in recent weeks. If Farrell gets an opportunity to kick for goal he should do so and take the points on offer as all points will be vital. Farrell recently passed 1000 Premiership points which is a brilliant achievement for a 26 year old who is often away with England! 
Let's hope it's a case of 'lovely Jubbly' rather than 'mongue too' as Del Boy Trotter would say.
It's going to be tough but Saracens are due a win so Saracens to edge this one by 6 points.