The sporting week ahead (21/04/13)

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The Independent Online


How nice will it be for Rafa Benitez to arrive somewhere where he is appreciated. Obviously we are not talking Chelsea here, but he should be guaranteed a rousing reception when he returns to Anfield as a manager for the first time. Expect the Chelsea fans to be booed if they boo him. Elsewhere, Spurs really need to beat Manchester City if they are serious about Champions' League football, while Arsenal Ladies set about retrieving a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Wolfsburg in the Champions' League semi-finals. In Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone will be hoping the only burning tyres at the Bahrain Grand Prix are on the track.


It is now a matter of where and when Manchester United win the Premier League. Their first chance comes tonight against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, but Sunday at Arsenal looks more likely, perhaps courtesy of a Robin van Persie winner.


Bayern Munich, Europe's hottest ticket, probably start as slight favourites in their Champions' League semi-final against Europe's fading force, Barcelona.


Germany versus Spain round two sees Borussia Dortmund entertain Real Madrid in the other semi-final. It's hard to see Dortmund denying Jose Mourinho his glamour final in London. How he will milk that one.


Having handed back the Champions' League silverware last Friday, Chelsea's trophy cabinet is looking particularly bare right now. The Europa League remains their only chance of filling it this season, and today they travel to Switzerland to face the ever-impressive Basle in their semi-final first leg. In cricket, two of the County Championship heavyweights, Somerset and Warwickshire, meet at Taunton.


The scramble to secure Championship play-off places is becoming ever more desperate, with Leicester and Watford both hoping to do themselves some good when they square up tonight. In rugby union, an all-French Challenge Cup semi-final sees Perpignan play Stade Français.


Amir Khan insists he is just one fight away from a world title shot, but he still needs to impress against Mexico's Julio Diaz on his return to Britain in Sheffield tonight. In rugby, only the brave would write off Munster's chances in their semi-final at Clermont even though the French are the Heineken Cup's form side. The main football interest could be at the Britannia, where Stoke play Norwich.