The sporting week ahead (02/12/12)

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The Independent Online


MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon is a game so dripping with possibilities, most of them nasty, it is probably fitting that Sky have not got their hands on it. You can only imagine the drum rolls, snarls and tears that would have accompanied it. Welcome to Grudge Sunday – so who are the real Dons? – with all sorts of nods to The Sopranos. And if all that isn't enough for you, there's Hibs v Hearts in the Scottish Cup and Burnley v Blackburn in the Championship. Not a day for the faint-hearted.


With an eight-year contract tucked under his Armani coat, Alan Pardew is surely the most unsackable manager in the League. Yet Newcastle are in freefall, with four successive defeats. Another tonight at home to Wigan will increase the sense of unease on Tyneside. In rugby, the draw for the 2015 World Cup in England and Wales takes place. Twickenham would seem like the obvious place to do it; in fact, everyone's heading for Tate Modern. Chris Robshaw can explore modern urban life in New York and Tokyo through the photographs of William Klein and Daido Moriyama... and then report back to the lads.


Arsenal have already qualified from their Champions' League group but against Olympiacos they can pip Schalke to top spot if they do better than the Germans on the night. Manchester City ponder what might have been in Dortmund.


Rafa Benitez's popularity at Chelsea will not be improved if he oversees their exit from the Champions' League, a real possibility even if they beat Nordsjaelland. With Manchester United already through, Celtic could provide the real drama if they beat Spartak Moscow and pip Benfica to a qualifying spot.


England enter the Third Test in Kolkata brimful of confidence, which probably means that the out-of-form Sachin Tendulkar will hit them with a double hundred. In football, whatever Young Boys achieve against Anzhi, Liverpool must equal it against Udinese to qualify from their Europa League group. They might think it is hardly worth the trouble. Tottenham can join Newcastle in the next round if they draw with Panathinaikos.


The Heineken Cup returns with a tasty-looking dust-up between Northampton Saints and Ulster.


Seems strange to have no England rugby union international. Roll on the Six Nations. But football will noisily fill the void, with Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion the top offering.