The sporting week ahead (12/02/12)

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The Independent Online


Wales will attempt to build on their dramatic defeat of Ireland with what should be an easier game against Scotland in Cardiff. Further afield, Ivory Coast take on Zambia in the final of the African Cup of Nations. Make a joke about it being the only silverware Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré or Gervinho will win this season, depending on your partisanship.


Fresh from being humiliated in a format they are good at, England now take on Pakistan in a format in which they struggle. Despite their triumphs at the opposing poles of Test and T20 cricket, they are no less abject over 50 overs than they were in the eras of Vince Wells, Alex Wharf or Kabir Ali. 2012's selection tombola has thrown up Danny Briggs and Jos Buttler.


Romance, passion, excitement, climax: that's just West Ham v Southampton. How better to spend Valentine's Day than with a promotion six-pointer? If you prefer classier entertainment, you can delight in Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona or Lyon v Apoel Nicosia in the Champions' League.


Four years ago Arsenal won 2-0 in Milan but scorers Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas now play elsewhere and there is a sense that Arsenal are moving in the wrong direction. They should treasure these Champions' League nights while they can.


The two main Premier League title contenders find themselves in the Europa League, and so it would be no trauma if they were to go out to very competitive opponents. Manchester United travel to Ajax, Manchester City host Porto. And it's the ultimate culture clash as Unai Emery's hard-working, imaginative Valencia come to Stoke.


Ospreys must hope they can make some ground on Pro12 leaders Leinster against a dismal Aironi. After 13 games the Italians have a remarkable negative points difference of 159.


The FA Cup is a rather attractive proposition for Chelsea and Arsenal as both managers, at very different stages of their tenures, desperately want a trophy. Chelsea host Birmingham, for what should be a comfortable passage to the quarter-finals, while Arsenal travel to Sunderland, for what might not be.