The sporting week ahead (13/11/11)


It's hard to get over-excited about a grand prix on which nothing rests in Abu Dhabi, so Morecambe against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup might provide the highlight. ESPN can award themselves a special prize if the words "War of the Roses" do not feature in the programme. In the Heineken Cup, Gloucester could not have been given a harder start than away at Fortress Toulouse. Saracens should have an altogether easier time of it against Benetton Treviso.


The form England Under-21s are in at the moment – four successive group wins – suggests Belgium shouldn't be too much of a problem even if they fielded Tintin in the side.


Now here's a thing: England have not beaten Sweden since 1968, back in the days when it was called the Empire Stadium and the person who tweeted was Tweety Pie. In the 12 meetings since then, England have managed to scramble eight draws. A 1-1 draw might be a judicious bet. Dublin's Aviva Stadium will be in celebratory mood ready to alive-alive-o the Republic of Ireland's play-off second leg with Estonia. In Liverpool the great and the good of horseracing will be out for the memorial of Ginger McCain.


An even more distant memory than an England victory over Sweden is the sight of the trampolining and tumbling World Championships being staged here – they are in Birmingham after a 44-year wait. Gymnastics will almost certainly form one of the highlights of next year's Olympics and most of the world's top tumblers will be here.


Given Welsh rugby's current health, Newport-Gwent Dragons against Perpignan in the Amlin Challenge Cup looks like an appetising trailer for...


... Northampton v Scarlets in the Heineken Cup, or the battle of the backs as it's sure to be styled: Chris Ashton and Ben Foden on one side and George North and Rhys Priestland on the other.


If Wolves v Wigan had a terrible sense of forboding about it last Sunday, then Wigan v Blackburn has an even nastier whiff. Newcastle's top-four credentials face the sternest of tests at Manchester City. In the Heineken Cup, Gloucester v Harlequins should provide lots of points and Leicester v Ulster plenty of muscle.