The sporting week ahead (07/04/13)

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The Independent Online


Put your hands together – but please not horizontally in any kind of fascist salute – for Paolo Di Canio's Premier League managerial debut. There could not be a better place for it than Stamford Bridge – so who will boo more, Chelsea fans at the sight of Benitez or Sunderland's at the sight of Di Canio?

Elsewhere, Premier League games with much less socio-political significance. Where's the fun in QPR v Wigan or Newcastle v Fulham? Those who like their football simple will settle for Tottenham v Everton. In rugby, Harlequins have a marvellous chance of beating a faltering Munster side to reach the Heineken Cup semi-finals, but Leicester will do well to beat Toulon.


Should United lose the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson can probably still raise a smile and say: "So what?" With the leaders a whopping 15 points clear of City, only supporter pride seems at stake. That and the obvious talking point of who will drive Carlos Tevez to the match.


The atmosphere in Istanbul will be hostile, but it's hard to see Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid not enjoying themselves against Galatasaray as they look to reach the Champions' League semi-final.


Depending who you read, David Beckham was either anonymous or wonderfully controlled for Paris Saint-Germain against Barcelona last week. Today sees the rematch. What's the betting Beckham gets nowhere near the action? On the cricket cold front, pack your Thermos for the start of the County Championship season. The champions, Warwickshire, face Derbyshire but Durham v Somerset looks interesting.


Everyone expects Tiger Woods to burn brightest at the Masters, but it is a full eight years since he last won in Augusta and five since his last major triumph. Don't be surprised if all that baggage proves too heavy. In the Europa League, Chelsea, Spurs and Newcastle play their quarter-final second-leg ties.


If Leicester are going to make the Championship play-offs they probably have to beat Birmingham City tonight.


Anyone struggling to think of when Wembley has ever staged a less glamorous showpiece occasion than today's FA Cup semi-final featuring Millwall v Wigan has probably already forgotten Swansea v Bradford in the Capital One Cup final a few weeks back. Even the Scottish Cup semi-final between Hibs and Falkirk might have more about it.