The sporting week ahead (23/12/12)


Chelsea are looking more like the genuine article, but can Rafa Benitez keep the Stamford Bridge "faithful" in a festive frame of mind with a first home League win under his stewardship against Aston Villa? If not, at least Roman Abramovich might be eyeing up a few bargains in the January sales. Manchester United travel to Swansea in a bid to extend their lead at the top again.


Even the World Darts Championship at Ally Pally takes a break for a few days, so perhaps you could help out with a few last-minute chores and earn some brownie points before the post-Christmas sportsfest. Or you could go and play it down the pub.


A day off from sporting engagements? Not likely if you happen to support the India or Pakistan cricket teams, as those titanic rivals clash in a Twenty20 match in Bangalore. Late at night the Second Test begins in Melbourne as Australia take on Sri Lanka. The MCG may not be at its festive best for that one.


Thank heavens for Boxing Day – unless you happen to be a supporter of Arsenal or West Ham, whose fixture has been called off because of the proposed Tube strike. An otherwise full football programme sees a humdinger at the top of the Championship as Cardiff City entertain Crystal Palace. At Kempton, the King George VI Chase sees Kauto Stone trying to emulate the feats of his half-brother Kauto Star, who won the race five times.


You can put that big wig back on and start painting your cryptic messages on tatty old bits of cardboard because yes, the darts is back!


Poor old Sale have had to play twice in six days while most of rugby's Premiership have put their feet up. Tonight the Sharks begrudgingly entertain Worcester Warriors.


Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion looks like a cracker (no pun intended) while Manchester City travel to East Anglia to take on an in-form Norwich City. It's also a day for derbies in Yorkshire as Huddersfield play host to Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds pay a visit to Hull. But in terms of edginess, look no further than Cardiff versus Millwall – and it's not even an early kick-off, so it might, er, kick off early. In the rugby, Leicester Tigers against Gloucester could be a belter.