The Sports Matrix: Friday 18 February 2011

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The Independent Online

Wilshere can force Capello change

If Jack Wilshere had been playing for Barcelona on Wednesday we would have been acclaiming another shining talent from their academy. But was it enough for Fabio Capello to reassess his role for England andmove him forward? MORE

Bell heralds his recent progress

Ian Bell tells i that he does not know if he started Test cricket too early. The England batsman admits that he wasn’t that “mature or solid” at the start of his career, and knew how far he was from the likes of Ricky Ponting, but believes he is now at their level. MORE

England to play final warm-up

England take on Pakistan today although the opening ceremony was last night and the tournament starts tomorrow. They need to improve their one-day form significantly if they are to seriously challenge. MORE

Xavi ‘optimistic’ of Barça progress

Barcelona were still confident yesterday of a second-leg comeback against Arsenal. “There are 90 minutes left and I’m still optimistic,” said Xavi, “I’d like to think that we are still favourites with the second leg to come in front of our supporters.” MORE

Hanks and Key both dismissed

Two directors of rugby lost their jobs in the Aviva Premiership yesterday, London Wasps’ Tony Hanks and Leeds Carnegie’s Andy Key. Key was named Coach of the Year’ in 2010 but his Leeds side lie bottom of the table while Wasps are in the top six. MORE

Uefa defend £150 final tickets

Uefa was last night asked to justify ticket prices for this year’s final, the most expensive in the tournament’s history. Prices were announced for public sale tickets yesterday, the cheapest seats are £150 while there is a £26 administration fee on all bookings. MORE

Cipriani on bench for Super 15 start

Danny Cipriani will have to settle for a place on the bench as the southern hemisphere’s premier rugby tournament kicks off. His side, the Melbourne Rebels, are in their debut season in the tournament and face the Waratahs this morning. MORE

Woodgate and Corluka ruled out

Two more Tottenham defenders have been lost to injury following Tuesday’s win in Milan. Jonathan Woodgate has strained his left adductor muscle while Vedran Corluka will miss a few weeks with an ankle injury inflicted by a Mathieu Flamini tackle. MORE

Ecclestone waits on Bahrain decision

Bernie Ecclestone will wait until next week before deciding whether to cancel next month’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Political instability led to the GP2 races scheduled there to be cancelled and Ecclestone admitted the situation was “not good”. MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

Barcelona are extraordinarily good, often sublime and always fascinating to watch. But not the greatest in history. They cannot yet be as good as the great Milan or Real Madrid teams, nor Hungary in the 1950s nor Brazil 1970. MORE

Liverpool stand firm in Prague

Liverpool headed back to Anfield last night with a clean sheet after holding Sparta Prague to a goalless draw in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie last night. In freezing conditions at the Letna Stadium, neither side overly impressed with their ambition, with Liverpool enjoying the majority of possession but the hosts appearing more eager to open the scoring. With captain Steven Gerrard missing with a groin injury, Joe Cole came on for Fabio Aurelio in the first half to make his first appearance in six weeks. Right-back Glen Johnson had Liverpool’s best chance of the match, stabbing a shot wide midway through the second half. The stalemate extended the Reds’ unbeaten run to seven games under manager Kenny Dalglish, while the Anfield side are also unbeaten in 11 games in the competition this season, ahead of next Thursday’s return leg. MORE

Rangers pegged back by late header

An 89th-minute goal from Matias Fernandez rescued a draw for Sporting Lisbon as they held Rangers 1-1 at Ibrox in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie. Stephen Whittaker had earlier given the hosts the lead with a towering header. MORE

Wiggins returns to velodrome today

Bradley Wiggins returns to a velodrome today for this first time since the Beijing Olympics, where he won two gold medals. He races in theWorld Cup in Manchester, aiming “to produce a world-class time to show myself and my squad that I am able to”. MORE