The sporting week ahead (04/11/12)


Given that Reading cannot protect four-goal leads, it is difficult to imagine what it would take for Brian McDermott to turn to his sidekick in the dugout today and whisper: "Job done". Even after Hallowe'en, he knows that any horror remains possible, and more angst could be piled on him at Loftus Road today in what promises to be a scrap and a half against equally-troubled Queens Park Rangers. A six-pointer? Shriek-pointer more like.

Expect the loser to collapse in misery at the end. Elsewhere, matches between Liverpool and Newcastle seldom improve managerial heart-rates so there should be plenty of goals at Anfield.


Tennis's ATP Tour Finals in London remains a curious event which struggles to fit snugly into the sporting calendar, but Andy Murray's astonishing run of success means that could all change this year. No strawberries and cream but plenty of red carpet. In football's Premier League, West Bromwich Albion will look to further their reputation as this season's surprise package against Southampton.


Last time out in the Champions' League Arsenal and Manchester City both looked very substandard, and neither have room for error now. City must win (against Ajax) and Arsenal cannot afford to lose (against Schalke).


English eyes may be focused on Chelsea (against Shakhtar Donetsk) and Manchester United (in Braga), but the night's best atmosphere will be at Celtic Park, where the Hoops' supporters will seek to shout Barcelona into submission. Meanwhile, Rangers can look forward to Saturday's visit of Peterhead.


Liverpool make the long trek to Anzhi Makhachkala, one of those increasingly intimidating Russian outposts, while Spurs entertain Maribor and Newcastle head to Club Brugge.


England's women will learn their fate in today's draw for next year's European Championship finals. Always a good idea to avoid Germany.


And so to rugby union. To describe any game against the Fijian bruisers as comfortable is a misnomer, but England know that the real tests will begin after this Twickenham hors d'oeuvre. Wales and Ireland face much stiffer tasks against Argentina and South Africa respectively. Manchester United's visit to Aston Villa looks the best of the football programme.