Leicester Riders' hopes for BBL season will be defined by first month of 2013, says Daniel Routledge
Daniel Routledge says Leicester's BBL hopes will be defined by their clashes in the first month of 2013.
Last Updated: 04/01/13 11:48am
The game's oldest club, Leicester Riders, are certainly a team on the rise, but if they want to reach the summit and become the leading team in the BBL, I reckon January will be the month that makes or breaks them.
Of course, the highlight of the month will be next weekend's showpiece at the National Indoor Arena, when they get an opportunity to take the first step in the symbolic shift of power, by wrestling the BBL Cup from Newcastle's grasp.
But I think the Riders' league credentials will be significantly tested during this month as well. Having spent much of the first half of the season in first place, Leicester have fallen four points behind the Eagles over the Christmas period.
That gap is, of course, based only on the fact that Newcastle have played two more games than the Riders, but psychologically you don't want to lose when you are chasing.
First up Leicester host a resurgent Worcester side at John Sandford this weekend.
The Riders haven't lost in front of their own fans in 18 games, a run that dates back to February last year, but Paul James' team are in the sort of form that will give that home advantage a real test.
We all knew that Worcester would be a different team once they finally got Sherrad Prezzie-Blue into the line-up, but by grabbing Kai Williams at the same time, the Wolves have really become a serious threat in the league.
Three games in with their new look line-up has yielded three double-digit wins over Newcastle, Glasgow and Plymouth.
The Wolves have probably already lost too many to challenge for the top spot in the league, but they will have an impact on who does finish there of that I'm sure.
Then, in our live broadcast on Sky Sports 3 on Tuesday night, Riders travel to London to take on the Lions.
The Lions have had a slump in form of late with no wins in their last five games, but there is nothing they enjoy more than beating the Riders and coming just five days before the Cup Final, this could easily be a trap game for Leicester.
On the other side of the Cup Final, Riders play host to third-placed Surrey Heat who themselves have an eye on the top prize and are one of only two teams this season to beat Leicester
It will be as difficult a match-up as you could imagine when you want to bask in your recent glory or dispel your disappointing defeat on the big stage, whichever it may be.
And then finally, Riders round off the month with a trip to Sheffield, a side they have pretty much dismantled three times already this season, but one that seems to be turning a corner right now.
By the end of the month, Leicester will have made up their games in hand on Newcastle, Surrey will have played one more than the top two, so it could be very congested at the top come February 1.
Now is not the time for any sort of slip up by the leading contenders, and if 2013 is to be the year that the league's oldest finally becomes the league's best, then the first few weeks of it will be vital.