The sporting week ahead (14/08/11)

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The Independent Online


A trip to Stoke is probably not what Andre Villas-Boas had in mind when he dreamt of managing in the Premier League. This could prove a tricky start to his Chelsea career, particularly as they have lagged behind the Manchester clubs in the transfer market. United are also in the Midlands, where West Bromwich look slightly less testing opposition.


Hard to imagine a bigger potential mismatch than Manchester City at home to Swansea. But, for the record, the last time these two met in the top flight, in 1982, Swansea won 2-0 with goals from Gary Stanley and Bob Latchford.


For Arsenal to fail to get through their Champions' League play-off would be unthinkable but Udinese will provide a tough challenge. Both teams finished fourth in their respective leagues and Antonio Di Natale remains a class act even at the age of 33.


Lancashire continue their pursuit of a first County Championship in 61 years against Worcestershire at Blackpool.


So who were the first English team to play in Europe? And here's a clue: the same team were also the first English team to reach a European final? Those of you already shouting Birmingham City can award yourself a prize, perhaps a DVD of Jasper Carrott's funniest TV moments. Yes the Blues appearerd in the inaugural Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1956 and four years later lost to Barcelona in the final of that competition. They return to the biggish time against the Portuguese side Nacional in the Europa League, which Chris Hughton probably regards as a distraction from the serious business of getting back in the Premier League. Elsewhere, Hearts against Tottenham could be a rip-roaring tie.


England will be looking to finish off India in spectacular fashion at The Oval. Let's be honest: the Indians never were the best team in the world. Those rankings are nonsensical.


Sunderland harbour bad memories of conceding five to Newcastle last year but they get an early opportunity to restate their superiority with the first derby of the season. Down in Wales, Swansea entertain Wigan. Lose that and it will start to look a very long season for the Swans.