The sporting week ahead (04/12/11)

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The Independent Online


Time was when the FA Cup third-round draw was the day of the year. Schoolboys would gather round transistor radios on Monday lunchtimes to hear the faint, mysterious chink of balls in a velvet bag, a perfect synthesis of tension and imagination. Now it hardly warrants a mention, an afterthought on the AFC Totton v Bristol Rovers game. Bizarrely, Sheffield United's Chinese international Li Tie will play a starring role, presumably to whip up interest in Hangzhou. Gianfranco Zola – give that man a proper job – will also be there. As for the actual draw, No 24 v No 25 would be good (that's Manchester City v Manchester United to you, Li Tie). In the Premier League, Wolves versus Sunderland has added frisson since Steve Bruce's sacking; Everton and Stoke also do battle.


The last time Maxi Rodriguez played at Craven Cottage he scored a quickfire hat-trick in a 5-2 win. These days he does well to get on the pitch at all, and he will be more than happy with a starting place for Liverpool tonight.


The whispers surrounding Chelsea's manager, Andre Villas-Boas, are growing ever louder and failure to reach the next stage of the Champions' League would further destabilise him. No pressure, then.


Manchester United should have enough experience to snaffle the required draw in Basle to progress to the Champions' League knock-out stage, but Manchester City are left relying on Villarreal to come up with unexpected wonders against Napoli.


England's Euro 2012 chances should become clearer when the FA appeal against Wayne Rooney's red card in Montenegro. The Varsity match at Twickenham is a reminder of when rugby was a less troubled sport.


England's form team, Harlequins, face Toulouse in rugby's Amlin Challenge Cup, which should be an intriguing test of their European credentials.


Everton's visit to Arsenal has an interesting feel to it, particularly with Mikel Arteta facing his former team. In boxing, Amir Khan puts his world light-welterweight titles on the line against Lamont Peterson in the American's home town of Washington DC.