The sporting week ahead (24/07/11)

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The Independent Online


That nice, self-effacing chap Neil Lennon will be doing his best to stay out of the headlines when Celtic travel to Hibernian for their first game of the season. For all the good intentions, however, not muchseems to have changed in Scottish football during the summer, so be prepared for another dollop of controversy when the Old Firm square up for the first time in mid-September.


This week marks one year to go to London 2012, and those of you who can't get enough of the five-ringed circus can feast on the start of the European Youth Olympic festival in Trabzon, the first time the Olympic flame has ever burned in Turkey.


It being mid-July, Rangers are now well into their season and face a Champions' League qualifier against Malmo. Those with long memories will know this could prove tricky: Malmo once reached the European Cup final, losing to Nottingham Forest in 1979.


Roll up Aston Villa v Blackburn – although not at Villa Park or even Ewood. Instead the Hong Kong Stadium has the honour of hosting the clash in the preposterously named Barclays Asia Trophy. Most interest might surround early relegation pointers, as both have the sniff of teams heading in the wrong direction.


The Irish Open is not normally the sort of event to attract too much attention but, since the island of Ireland is now the epicentre of the golfing world, this year might be different. The North's trio of champions – Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke – will all be there, along with the South's three-time champion, Padraig Harrington.


Trent Bridge is not normally deemed a Test match outpost but it is the most northerly point on India's Test radar this summer. The grand old ground hosts the Second Test, starting today.


England's traditional journey towards World Cup disappointment starts today in Rio, where the 2014 qualifying draw is made. It used always to be Poland in the same group; these days it's Croatia...