The sporting week ahead (17/02/13)

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The Independent Online


Here we are in February, and for Manchester City it has come down to the FA Cup. In case Roberto Mancini needs reminding (he won't), that is exactly where he was two years ago. Progress? We can expect him to dust down a few clichés about the greatest cup competition in the world. If Chelsea lose their replay at home to pesky neighbours Brentford, Rafa Benitez might as well buy a one-way Tube ticket from Fulham Broadway. England begin their one-day international series against New Zealand in Hamilton.


Flash back a couple of weeks and remember all that tut-tutting about Manchester United's Cup games always being on the TV. Well guess what? Here's another one, against those glamour boys at Reading.


If you are cynical, as many Arsenal supporters are, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that there is a certain pointlessness in striving so hard to stay in the top four each season just to end up being knocked out of the Champions' League by a team like, well, Bayern Munich. The Germans (and we are not talking Podolski and Mertesacker here) start as favourites. The other tie sees Porto host Malaga.


Milan versus Barcelona could be the tie of the week, while Galatasaray – Didier Drogba et al – host Schalke.


And Bale must score... in the second leg of the Europa League last-32 tie in Lyon. Tottenham's goal machine has scored all their previous six in four games and will fancy a few more in the return tie. Liverpool need three without reply at home to Zenit, which looks a task too hard for Brendan Rodgers's men, while Chelsea should see off Sparta Prague at home.


You'd think life couldn't get much worse for rugby league, with crowds dropping and most clubs struggling financially. But last week we learned that six Australian clubs are being investigated for wholesale drug misuse. So Melbourne, who are not among them, could have chosen a better week to come over here and play Leeds in the ludicrously named World Club Challenge.


Given France's inept start to the Six Nations, Le Crunch meeting with England at Twickenham has lost much of its snap. Defeat will confirm France's worst tournament start since everyone played in knickerbockers (or something like that). In football, QPR are fast running out of must-win games, and today's meeting with Manchester United appears especially ill-timed. Another defeat will test even Happy Harry's patience.