I passed a fellow Disney cast member in the hallway just after Thursday afternoon’s first set of World Cup matches concluded. He’d missed the U.S.-Germany game.“Did we win?” he asked.“Yes,” I said. “I mean, no, we lost. But we advanced.” He seemed to understand.After its loss to Germany, the U.S. finished tied for second in Group G, with one win, one loss and one draw. Portugal had the same record. But the U.S. had the better goal differential and will go on, reaching the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups for the first time in its history.Some further good news for the U.S. is that it has a palatable draw in its Round of 16 game. If the U.S. gets very lucky and Algeria and South Korea win their games Thursday, its opponent would be Algeria. However, there is only a 3.5 percent chance of both of those outcomes. In any other case, the U.S. will face Belgium.The U.S. will be an underdog against Belgium, but not as badly as it would be against some other opponents. If we put the remaining World Cup teams into several tiers based on their Soccer Power Index (SPI) ratings, it would look something like this:Tier 1A: Brazil (partly because of home-country advantage)Tier 1B: Germany, ArgentinaTier 2A: Colombia, Netherlands, France, ChileTier 2B: Belgium, UruguayTier 3A: Switzerland, U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria, RussiaTier 3B: Algeria, GreeceTier 4: South Korea (very unlikely to advance)Belgium is dangerous, but not as dangerous as tournament favorites Brazil, Germany and Argentina. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, France, Chile and Colombia also look more threatening than Belgium based on the things SPI looks at: pre-tournament resumes, form so far in the World Cup and, in the case of Chile and Colombia, games closer to home.Our match-prediction algorithm gives the U.S. about a 42 percent chance of winning a knockout-stage game against Belgium based on each team’s SPI rating as of Thursday morning. (The U.S. would be 59 percent favorites against Algeria.) Here’s how those probabilities look for a knockout match between the U.S. and all remaining teams in the World Cup:A note for soccer newbies: There are no draws in the knockout stage. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, the teams play 30 minutes of extra time. (The 30 minutes are guaranteed; there is no longer any “sudden death” or Golden Goal rule.) If the score is still tied, the game goes to a penalty shootout. (Some soccer statisticians consider games that go to penalties to be draws for record-keeping purposes — but the winner of the shootout advances all the same.)These probabilities reflect an improvement, which we’ll be unveiling Friday morning, to the SPI match-prediction program. Previously, it had been resolving all matches that would have been draws in regulation 50-50. In other words, it was assuming that the outcome of a game that went to extra time was purely random.We’ve done some further research, however, and this assumption turns out be somewhat too conservative. Based on the results from major tournaments since 2005, the better team does have a slight edge in extra time. It isn’t much of an advantage if the teams are at all competitive with one another: For example, if a U.S.-Belgium game went to extra time, Belgium would have a 54 percent chance of advancing either after extra time or on penalties, and the U.S. would have a 46 percent chance. But it’s worth worrying about when one team is clearly better. For instance, we estimate that Argentina would have a 65 percent chance of winning an extra-time game against the U.S.Speaking of Argentina, it represents the biggest barrier to the U.S. making a deep run in the World Cup. The Argentines are the Americans’ most likely opponent in the quarterfinals and the U.S. has only a 20 percent chance of beating them. The U.S. will want to root for Switzerland to upset Argentina in the Round of 16 — against the Swiss, the Americans would be almost even money.Overall, the U.S. has a 13 percent chance of winning two knockout-stage matches and advancing to the semifinals for the first time since the 1930 World Cup. Its probability of winning the World Cup is only 1.2 percent — although those odds are up from just 0.4 percent before the tournament began.
Win shareJacksonEveryone else > 3/4100%32.3% 2/3 – 3/450%9.3% < 2/30%0.4% With Phil Jackson returning to the NBA as president of the New York Knicks — his first front-office job — there’s one move he can make to greatly improve the Knicks’ chances at success: Hire himself as coach.I’m not saying that the Knicks’ players are a perfect match for Jackson’s “triangle” offense, or that I have any insight into his coaching shortlist — except that any name on that list other than his will be less likely to win championships.To illustrate, let’s take a quick look at some of Jackson’s accomplishments:I know “count the rings” is a controversial argument, but Jackson has won a lot of championships. This graph also doubles as a good reason why he should return to coaching: He’s fallen behind the rest of the NBA. Time to catch up!Though already a Hall of Famer and widely regarded as one of the best coaches in NBA history, Jackson still sometimes gets criticized for having won his 11 rings exclusively with some of the best players in history: First Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (and later Dennis Rodman) with the Chicago Bulls, then Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (and later Pau Gasol) with the Los Angeles Lakers.Of course, if he had taken over last year’s Lakers squad — with Kobe, Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — and trounced everyone on his way to a 12th trophy, he would have faced the same criticism. It’s ridiculous: Take any player who Jackson won a championship with, and he has won at least five more without them. The reverse isn’t even close. Among Jackson’s regular starters, Rodman had two championships without him, and Shaq had one. That’s it.But the point that Jackson’s teams were all very strong, while mostly true, misses a critical point: They won more championships than even incredibly strong teams are expected to.Jackson’s teams won more than 75 percent of their games in the regular season six times, and each time won the NBA championship. Since the introduction of the 3-point shot (1979-80), 31 non-Jackson-coached teams have won more than 75 percent of their games, and only 10 won the title.But maybe his top teams are just better than the rest of the NBA’s top teams. So let’s look at the next step down: Jackson’s teams won between two-thirds and three-fourths of their games in the regular season 10 times, winning five championships (50 percent). The rest of the NBA has done the same just 10 of 108 times (9.3 percent).None of Jackson’s four teams who failed to win two-thirds of their games ever won a championship. But of the 765 other teams in that category, only three ever did. To summarize: One reason Jackson’s consistently great teams may have done so well relative to their records is that their records more accurately reflect their strength, more so than the random NBA team that runs well for a year or so. But Jackson’s dynastic teams do even better in the playoffs than other dynasties.For example, the average Phil Jackson team saw its win-rate drop by about 4 percent in the playoffs (against much stronger competition) compared with the regular season (against average competition). The league dropped, on average, by 11 percent. Gregg Popovich is notorious for resting starters and otherwise not taking the regular season seriously, and even his San Antonio Spurs see a 9.5 percent drop. To find any dynasty nearly as consistent as Jackson’s, you have to go back to the 1980s. Pat Riley’s Lakers’ win rate dropped only 5 percent (though if you add in Riley’s years with the Knicks and the Miami Heat, his average jumps back to 10 percent).Even if Jackson had nothing to do with his teams’ strength in general, his ability to keep them performing their best or even better in the playoffs is remarkable. Given the extreme rarity of clutch-like effects in sports, is it more likely that two to three different teams independently possessed this quality, and Jackson just happened to coach them? Or did Jackson’s coaching instill this quality?
2007Prince FielderMIL351550 2006Ryan HowardPHI411758 2001Barry BondsSF492473✓ 2007Alex RodriguezNYY391554✓ 2010Jose BautistaTOR361854 Want a late-season home run barrage? Juice up.MLB players who hit the most home runs before the end of the season after hitting 35 or more home runs through 116 games 1998Sammy SosaCHC432366✓ 1999Sammy SosaCHC461763✓ HOME RUNS That means Stanton will need the kind of performance not seen since the steroid era to beat Maris’s old record — a tall order, even for one of history’s greatest power hitters. Of course, maybe juiced balls are the equivalent of steroids for today’s batters, which would certainly boost Stanton’s odds. Either way, to get there, he’ll have to stay nearly as hot as he’s been in this recent streak over the entire rest of the year.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 1990Cecil FielderDET351651 Based on 72 hitters. For 162-game seasons only. Implication of PED use based on the Mitchell Report, failed drug tests and player admissions.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Lahman database 2001Sammy SosaCHC412364✓ 1998Ken Griffey Jr.SEA411556 1961Roger MarisNYY441761 1998Mark McGwireSTL462470✓ 1997Ken Griffey Jr.SEA362056 Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is on some kind of hot streak. With yet another home run on Sunday (he’s homered in four straight games and nine times this month), Stanton now has 42 on the 2017 season — and 21 in his last 33 games. Just when it looked like Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was going to usurp Stanton’s crown as the game’s top power hitter, Stanton has reclaimed it with a vengeance.Stanton’s season is already historic; only 11 times in the 162-game-schedule era1Since 1961. has a batter hit 42 or more home runs in his team’s first 116 ballgames. But Stanton can set his sights on another historic mark: the pre-steroids single-season home run record of 61, set by Roger Maris in 1961.Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds later surpassed Maris’s mark.2Bonds holds the current record with 73 home runs, set in 2001. But McGwire and Sosa either admitted to or tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs, and Bonds was mentioned prominently in the Mitchell Report (which investigated the use of steroids in baseball), thus tainting their accomplishments in the eyes of many fans. So for Stanton, breaking Maris’s “record” would bring cachet even if it isn’t technically the record anymore.And by the numbers alone, Stanton — who needs 20 more home runs by the end of the season to best Maris — has an outside shot at the feat. For every batter who hit at least 35 homers in the first 116 games of a 162-game season,3This sample included 72 players. I recorded how many homers each managed over the rest of the season. About 11 percent managed to hit at least 20 more home runs. 2002Alex RodriguezTEX372057✓ 1999Mark McGwireSTL442165✓ So there’s a chance. But if you look at who did the homering over the rest of the season, Stanton’s odds might need to be adjusted downward more than a little. Of the eight hitter-seasons in our sample with 20 or more home runs between Game 116 and season’s end, all came in the steroid era, and only one — the great Ken Griffey Jr. — belonged to a player never associated with performance-enhancing drug use. The most by a recent player was the 18 late-season homers that Jose Bautista hit in 2010. YEARPLAYERTEAMTHROUGH 116 GAMESREST OF SEASONTOTALPEDS? 1997Mark McGwireOAK/STL352358✓
The Ohio State women’s volleyball team jumped out to a one-set lead (26-24) against No. 19 Michigan, but dropped the next three sets (17-25, 16-25, 19-25) en route to a 3-1 loss Friday night. The Buckeyes seemed energized during the highly contested first set, which saw 16 ties and eight lead changes, winning on a game-point kill by outside hitter Anna Szerszen. The momentum did not hold for the Buckeyes, however, as Michigan jumped out to an early 7-1 lead to start the second set. OSU never recovered from the early deficit and headed into the break with the match tied at one set a piece. After the break, Michigan picked up right where it left off, jumping out to a 9-2 lead to start the third set. OSU cut the lead to 9-6 but could never climb back in the set. The last set was close through the first-half, featuring three ties, but Michigan began to pull away after gaining an 11-10 advantage. With Michigan’s lead 23-15, OSU began to fight back, riding outside hitter Katie Dull’s three consecutive kills, but fell short in the end. For the Buckeyes, Dull had a team-high 18 points with 15 kills, two aces and a solo block. Betsy Hone led the Buckeyes with 30 assists and Sarah Mignin was the team-leader in digs with nine. The Buckeyes had trouble getting into a rhythm the entire night. Following the game, the team spent some extended time in the locker room to work things out. “We had a really good conversation that was much needed,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “I think we are going to be better tomorrow. “We were just disconnected and it’s my job as a coach to get everyone connected again. The dynamic needed to be tweaked and it just didn’t feel like our team today, but we’ll move forward.” The Buckeyes recovered quickly, turning around Saturday night to sweep Michigan State at St. John Arena, three sets to none (25-20, 25-22, 25-18). Michigan State found itself leading the first set 14-8 before the Buckeyes made five consecutive points to get them back in the game. A kill by middle blocker Mariah Booth brought up game point, and a kill from Dull sealed the first set for the Buckeyes. Set two was close throughout, seeing seven ties and three lead changes. Michigan State led 10-8 before the Buckeyes scored nine unanswered points, making the score 17-10. OSU increased its lead to 21-13, but the Spartans fought back with six unanswered points of their own, making the score 21-19. A 4-3 run to close the set gave OSU the 2-0 set lead. OSU jumped out early in the third set and never looked back. At 23-17, a kill by middle blocker Kelli Barhorst gave OSU match point. A 24-18 Spartan error gave OSU the match. Dull posted a match-high 18.5 points with 14 kills, two aces and a solo block. Amanda Peterson led the Buckeyes with 31 assists while Mignin was the team-leader in digs with 8. With the win, Ohio State improves to 14-3 on the year and 2-2 in conference play.
The OSU women’s swimmer ‘D’ relay takes off during the 200-yard free relay at McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion Nov. 9. OSU won against Ohio University 193-106. Credit: Amanda Carberry / Lantern photographer
Senior Peter Kobelt returns the ball during a match against Texas A&M Feb. 9 at the Varsity Tennis Center. OSU won, 4-3.Credit: Alice Bacani / News director at BuckeyeTVAfter a whirlwind week that saw it defeat four top 15-ranked opponents in four days and rise to No. 1 in the ITA team rankings, the Ohio State men’s tennis team returned to action this weekend in another highly anticipated match at No. 10 Notre Dame.Playing in their first match after winning the ITA Indoor National Championship Feb. 17, the top ranked Buckeyes (14-0, 0-0) traveled to South Bend, Ind., Saturday to take on the Fighting Irish (10-3, 0-1).There might have been a bit of a hangover from the previous week’s success as the Buckeyes started out flat in doubles play.Redshirt-sophomore Chris Diaz and redshirt-freshman Ralf Steinbach were off first, losing to the Irish duo of senior Ryan Bandy and sophomore Eric Schnurrenberger 7-5.The Buckeyes’ No. 2-ranked duo of senior Peter Kobelt and redshirt-junior Kevin Metka evened things up with a 9-7 win over the No. 17 ranked team of senior Greg Andrews and sophomore Alex Lawson. The Irish captured the point shortly after though, as senior Billy Pecor and freshman Josh Hagar beat OSU’s redshirt-junior Hunter Callahan and freshman Herkko Pollanen, 8-6.After riding the doubles teams hard last weekend, and only having lost the doubles point twice in their previous 13 matches, the Buckeyes knew they had to shore up a few things up in singles play.OSU got the message, winning the first set in four of their matches. Steinbach fell quickly to Bandy, 6-3, 6-3, to give the Irish a 2-0 lead, but it was all Buckeyes from that point on.Callahan earned the Buckeyes’ first point, winning in straight sets against Schnurrenberger, 6-4, 6-4. It was his 12th consecutive win.Diaz fought back from being down 5-2 in his first set to force a tiebreaker with sophomore Quentin Monaghan. Momentum was all his at that point as he won the break and went on to win 7-6, 6-4.Metka went back in forth with freshman Eddy Covalschi before winning in a third set tiebreak, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, and leaving the Buckeyes one win away from clinching the match.No. 23 Kobelt was the one who provided that point. In his match against No. 37 ranked Andrews, both players held serve every single time with each set heading to a tiebreak. After losing the first break, Kobelt took the next two, clinching the match with a 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 victory.“It’s always exciting to clinch match point for your team, especially against a very good Notre Dame team,” Kobelt said after the match.It was Notre Dame’s first home loss of the season and also the Buckeyes’ seventh straight win this season against a top 25 team.The Buckeyes are next scheduled to head to Indiana Monday to open Big Ten play with a match against the Hoosiers. The match is set to start at 2 p.m.
Now former-OSU wide receiver Devin Smith speaks to the media at the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl. Smith is projected as a first round draft pick by many experts. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorFor some, pro day is a way to improve on subpar performances in certain events at the NFL Scouting Combine. For others, it is a time to introduce yourself, both personally and through your play, to the NFL scouts and coaches on hand.No matter what the goal was, the 10 former Ohio State players currently entered in the 2015 NFL draft had a chance to reach it Friday morning with OSU’s annual pro day event at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.At one end of the spectrum is wide receiver Devin Smith, who currently projects as a first-round pick in many mock drafts. Smith, who performed at the combine in Indianapolis last month, said he was using the opportunity to show off some of the finer points of his skill set.“I was really just trying to hush the critics of me, that I’m only able to run one route,” Smith said. “I thought it was really important to go out there and run all the routes, show them that I’ve improved and can run all the routes.”Smith said in addition to route running, he wanted to be able to showcase his ability to corral the ball on a regular basis.“A lot of teams felt that I’m not very consistent with my hands, so I made sure I did that,” he said. “I put a lot of work and training into working on my hands and my coordination.”On the other end, offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin, who was not a starter for coach Urban Meyer until his redshirt-senior season, looked to get his name out there and get one step closer to the NFL.“You just try to start one year, and now you’re here trying to impress NFL teams,” Baldwin said. “It’s great. It’s a dream come true.”Despite a total of 76 representatives from the NFL in attendance at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, including members of all 32 teams, Baldwin said he was able to block out most of the pressure coming from the most important job interview of his life.“I didn’t (feel the pressure). After we got the bench out of the way, and the first 40 (yard dash), I was just more relaxed and everything just seemed better,” Baldwin said.Among the 76 NFL representatives in attendance were Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Minnesota Vikings general manager and OSU alumnus Rick Spielman.Tomlin was accompanied by current Pittsburgh and former OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier.Another participant Friday was cornerback Doran Grant. Grant said he has attended past pro days to support his teammates, but he still did not know exactly what to expect.“You’re the performer. You’re the one doing the workout. You’re the one interviewing for the job with all this NFL personnel,” Grant said. “I was looking at (redshirt-sophomore cornerback) Eli (Apple), how he was watching at me, and I said, ‘That’s how I used to be.’”Grant said he is still not sure where he might go in the draft. The Akron native said all that matters to him is making an NFL roster, in any capacity.He said has talked to the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Steelers, amongst other organizations.Baldwin said he does not know what the future will hold for him, but he appreciates days like Friday to give him a chance to work toward his dream.“Whether it’s going late-round draft or free agent, it doesn’t really matter to me. Just getting the chances,” he said.Baldwin was not aware of his numbers Friday, as they were not released to attendees outside of the scouts, but said he believes he performed well. The Solon, Ohio, product said he has an interview scheduled with the Carolina Panthers at the end of the month.While 2013 OSU graduates such as offensive lineman Marcus Hall, wide receiver Chris Fields and kicker Drew Basil made their returns to the WHAC on Friday, so did one player who has been away for quite a bit longer.Troy Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006 as a senior at OSU, returned to throw passes in receiving drills for tight end Jeff Heuerman and receivers Evan Spencer, Fields and Devin Smith.Devin Smith said it was a good experience to work with the former NFL starting quarterback.“It was great. Having a Heisman Trophy winner come out here and really giving us a good look, so we appreciate it and, and he’s always wanted to do stuff for us,” he said.In addition to Devin Smith, Baldwin, Heuerman, Spencer and Grant, the other recent OSU graduates participating Friday were defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Steve Miller, kicker Kyle Clinton, long snapper Russell Doup and linebacker Curtis Grant.Doran Grant said, while he enjoys the pressure and intensity of the pre-draft workouts, he is getting restless waiting for the draft to begin April 30.“It’s been just like everybody told us,” he said. “They said it’s a long process. That’s what makes it hard, is how long from January until draft day. That’s the hardest part, the wait.”
Paterson was convicted by a jury of offences of wounding with intent and unlawful wounding against 10 patients.Sentencing him to a total of 15 years, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told Paterson: “You deliberately played upon their worst fears, either by inventing or deliberately exaggerating the risk that they would develop cancer, and thereby gained their trust and confidence to consent to the surgical procedures which you carried out upon them.”His trial heard evidence from nine women and one man who were treated in the private sector at Little Aston and Parkway Hospitals in the West Midlands between 1997 and 2011.Victims told the court that Paterson’s crimes had left them in constant pain and struggling to trust medical professionals. Ian Paterson was told his sentence was ‘unduly lenient’Credit:BPM Media “This is a truly sickening crime and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I hope the increased sentence will help bring some closure for them.”Woman describes how she was targeted by Ian Paterson Paterson, 59, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, watched proceedings via video-link from prison.He was convicted by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court of offences of wounding with intent and unlawful wounding against 10 patients.The decision was announced by Lady Justice Hallett, who said: “Both the harm and culpability here were exceptionally high.”She said the court was satisfied that the sentence imposed was “unduly lenient”, and that a “just” term was one of a total of 20 years for “multiple” offences.After the ruling, Mr Buckland said: “Throughout our lives we are told and expected to trust doctors. Paterson woefully abused that trust – he deliberately preyed on people’s worst fears and then mutilated them on the operating table. A surgeon who carried out needless breast operations has had his 15-year jail sentence increased to 20 years by judges.Ian Paterson, who left victims scarred and disfigured, was ordered to serve extra time behind bars by the Court of Appeal on Thursday.Lady Justice Hallett, Mrs Justice Carr and Mr Justice Goss, sitting in London, declared that the original jail term imposed in May was “unduly lenient”.Their ruling came after the sentence was referred to the court for review by Solicitor General Robert Buckland. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for children and families Ms Tanuku added that nursery mangers must firmly refuse requests from parents for male staff not to change nappies or take their children to the toilet.“There have been situations where parents have asked for male practitioners not to carry out personal care for their child and although a sensitive situation, it must be dealt with immediately,” she said.“By making your position clear it will demonstrate to all parents, colleagues and the worker himself, that he is a valued and trusted member of staff. There is also a separate legal issue of discrimination if a nursery were to ban male employees from carrying out personal care.” “Some children out there may not have a male in their home, there needs to be balance, they need to have that interaction,” he told the BBC. “It breaks down that whole, ‘you have to be macho to be a male,’ thing. It shows them men can be silly, can play, make jokes, can give you a hug if you’ve fallen down.” Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for children and families, said that the lack of male nursery teachers is a problem which Department for Education officials are trying to address. Speaking at the education select committee, he said: “I think there is an issue. We do need to do more.“One of the areas we are looking to do more is on apprenticeships – to get more people considering a career in early years especially males. It is something that is important. A lack of male role models is not a good thing.”Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association, said that childcare is seen by many as a “woman’s job” and that recruiting male practitioners is a “long standing problem” for the sector. She added that “misplaced perceptions” about male nursery workers are “fuelled by negative stereotypes”. The majority of councils have no men working in their nurseries, as parents assume they pose a risk to young children. Of the 38 councils in England, Scotland and Wales which still have in-house nurseries, 26 do not hire a single male teacher. Jamel Campbell, of the London Early Years Foundation, said: “People are entrusting their precious babies to us, to care for them and to teach them. There is a lot of stigma based on negative stories – children being at harm… men not being nurturing, men not being able to work with children that small.”Of 400,000 early years educators – which includes preschools, nurseries and school reception classes – 98 per cent are female. The starting salary for nursery practitioners is around £18,000.Mr Campbell said that more men would be interested in becoming nursery teachers if they understood the benefits it can bring to young children. Of the 38 councils in England, Scotland and Wales which still have in-house nurseries, 26 do not hire a single male teacher Credit: Christopher Furlong Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Earlier this week, a report warned that a recruitment crisis in nursery schools could see half of highly-qualified staff retiring within 25 years. Analysis by the Education Policy Institute found that a large proportion of staff with degree-level qualifications are aged over 40. One in five are over 50 and are set to retire within 10 to 15 years, the report said, while younger staff are more likely to be volunteers. In reception classes almost 16 per cent of staff are unpaid volunteers, and the number of unpaid staff in independent nurseries rose by 60 per cent between 2008 and 2013.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The chocolate treat, available at Waitrose, is shaped like half of an avocado, and has been so sought-after that many took to social media to complain that it was out of stock.‘Free-from’ takes on Easter favourites are also on the rise, catering for those who have cut gluten and dairy out of their diets. A Waitrose spokesperson said: “Sales of our dairy free egg (from brand Moo Free) are up 45% on the same time last year.”Marks and Spencer experienced a similar spike in their vegan egg sales. A spokesperson revealed: “Sales of our Made Without Dairy Dark Chocolate Egg are up +13% on last year.”Gluten-free and dairy-free hot cross buns are also proving more popular this year.Alexa Masterson, Product Developer at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re committed to opening doors for those who have specific dietary requirements and Easter is no exception! Our Deliciously FreeFrom products, including our popular Easter Eggs and brand new Hot Cross Buns, mean that even more people are able to enjoy the celebrations together.” “Supermarkets are targeting consumers with food that they already associate with celebration, family time, and relaxation.“If it proves successful this year then you should expect to see even more Easter foods with a Christmas twist next year.”Easter this year has also been given a ‘millennial’ flavour, with one of the most popular offerings being an ‘avocado’ egg. Jamie Pettigrew tweeted, attaching a picture of an Iceland turkey advert: “No budget for a shoot – use the Christmas ad…” Christmas, it is said, only comes once a year – but not it would seem if you took a glance at supermarkets’ Easter offerings which this year include turkey, panettone and stollen.While traditional Easter foods include a leg of lamb and some gently spiced hot cross buns, retailers have this year added Christmas products with an “Easter twist” to their offerings.Aldi is selling turkey crowns, as well as smoked salmon macaroni cheese for the Easter table.The bargain food shop is specifically marketing the items for Easter, and said it expects its “rich macaroni cheese bakes with either delicious oak smoked Atlantic salmon or luxurious crayfish and crab filling” to prove popular after they are released on March 29.Frozen food supermarket Iceland is also marketing turkey to be eaten over the Easter weekend, and is calling the traditional Christmas meat the “star of the show” in advertisements.The store tweeted: “Not sure which meat to serve this #Easter? Our star of the show, Spring Turkey will give you all kinds of #MondayMotivation.”Some on Twitter have suggested the supermarkets are recycling their Christmas adverts. “We’ve seen overwhelming appetite for our Deliciously FreeFrom Hot Cross Buns which launched this year, and are now the best-selling product in our FreeFrom morning goods range.” Other supermarkets are also blurring the culinary lines between the holidays. Panettone is a traditional Christmas treat, a bread-like cake studded with dried fruit to be eaten at breakfast.However, Waitrose has stocked it for Easter, making a special version for the Christian holiday.The supermarket said: “A Christmas classic gets an egg-citing Easter makeover with our new egg shaped Waitrose Christmas Panettone.“Our Panettone is made with a traditional sourdough recipe nurtured since 1964. This is combined with butter and chocolate and topped with pastel coloured sugar discs to make this treat look as pretty as an Easter egg!”Dutch store Hema has also been promoting an ‘Easter stollen’ – despite the bread being a German Christmas delicacy.In other cases, Easter treats have taken a Christmas flavour. Aldi has broadened its range of hot cross buns to include chocolate and toffee and cranberry and orange – with sales having doubled on last year.Charles Banks, co-founder at food trends firm The Food People, said: “This is far more strategic than supermarkets wheeling out their old Christmas stock,” said Charles Banks, co-founder at food trends firm The Food People.“The UK has a uniquely competitive supermarket culture. This drives innovation as companies fight for differentiation by developing new products. Waitrose’s avocado-shaped Easter egg “No budget for a shoot – use the Christmas ad…” @IcelandFoods #turkey #easter #lamb pic.twitter.com/qZnN4xy8uL— Jamie Pettigrew (@JC_Pettigrew) March 23, 2018