The sporting week ahead (10/02/13)

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The Independent Online


The second weekend of the Six Nations is absurdly early to talk of a championship decider, but you wouldn't bet against today's winner in Dublin. Much will depend on how well England withstand the Irish onslaught for the first 15 minutes. If you don't hear a rousing chorus of "The Fields of Athenry" at the end of it, they might be on to a winner. In football, most neutrals will want Everton to win at Old Trafford. If they don't, the title race might be over by the end of the month. Aston Villa host an increasingly jittery West Ham United in a game that neither side can afford to lose.


Since West Bromwich Albion are no longer a top-eight team, expect rapidly improving Liverpool to see them off comfortably at Anfield.


What must Rangers fans think today as Celtic prepare for the last 16 of the Champions' League against Juventus? The last time the sides met was 2001, when the Bhoys won 4-3. In cricket, England will be hoping for victory in their second Twenty20 game against New Zealand in Hamilton.


Today promises another epic, with Manchester United heading to Real Madrid. What price a Cristiano Ronaldo dive to earn a match-winning penalty in the 95th minute? In cycling, the UCI Track World Championships start in Minsk.


Rafa Benitez has another chance to dump Chelsea out of a competition, this time the Europa League. If they can't win at Brentford, what chance at Sparta Prague? Newcastle, Tottenham and Liverpool also have a run-out in Europe's least-loved competition.


Another tour, another continent, another tournament concludes, this time England's Twenty20 bish-bang with New Zealand. Onwards and upwards, lads.


For the newly unemployed Paul Dickov, Oldham's FA Cup victory over Liverpool must seem like a lifetime ago. Today he will watch, no doubt from the television studio, their fifth-round tie with Everton. The late kick-off time of 6pm is as absurd as his sacking. In other games, Luton Town and Millwall, both of whom beat Premier League opponents last time out, clash in the day's early kick-off, with Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers and MK Dons v Barnsley sandwiched in between. Rather frustratingly for rugby followers, this is a blank weekend for the Six Nations, but Harlequins playing host to Leicester Tigers is not to be sniffed at in the Aviva Premiership.