The sporting week ahead (18/11/12)

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The Independent Online


One day soon they will surely knock down the statue of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage and replace it with one of Mohamed Al-Fayed. Until then, Fulham fans will have to content themselves with purchasing an official gnome of the great man from the club's official online store for a paltry £17.99. No chairman has a higher approval rating among his own fans and this season is already shaping up to be Fulham's best. Victory today against a struggling Sunderland will further embed them in the Premier League's top 10, an astonishing feat for a club who might even finish above Arsenal. Across London, the atmosphere at Millwall v Leeds might be a lot less convivial.


West Ham can also make a case for themselves as London's prime over-achievers and should have enough about them to see off Stoke, whose season is middling fair as usual.


For all the celebrations that marked Chelsea's late Champions' League winner against Shakhtar Donetsk, the nightmare scenario remains in place. Lose today to Juventus and they could still go out if the Italians draw with the Ukrainians in the final round of games. Elsewhere in Europe, there can be no better country for Celtic to make history in than Portugal. Win against Benfica and they will have an XI to set alongside the Lisbon Lions.


And so to our duff teams. Manchester City must beat Real Madrid (and hope) while Arsenal, buoyed by their north London derby romp, should see off Montpellier.


Even the Europa League is starting to get interesting, with Spurs heading for Lazio. Expect to see Paul Gascoigne popping up all over the place.


If Fulham fans can't have the statue they want, at least Manchester United ones will. A monument to Sir Alex Ferguson is unveiled at Old Trafford today. Imagine going to work seeing a statue of yourself outside the office.


Ricky Hatton's comeback is surely the least welcome of the year. There ought to be a course for former boxers to tell them they don't have to rush straight back into the ring after retirement. There are a raft of new experiences to sample – even beyond a guest appearance on I'm a Celebrity... Get me Out of Here! But tonight Hatton will ignore them all and fight Vyacheslav Senchenko. How sad. An equally bruising encounter awaits England at Twickenham when South Africa roll up. And it won't be any easier for Wales either: New Zealand's All Blacks are coming to the Millennium Stadium.