The sporting week ahead (25/11/12)

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The Independent Online


A week ago, the prospect of Rafa Benitez taking charge of Chelsea would have seemed as fanciful as Roman Abramovich giving an interview to explain his management philosophy. His return to the crazy revolving world of Premier League management will be seen either as a masterstroke or final confirmation that Chelsea are beyond the pale. What price a Fernando Torres hat-trick today? Benitez's elevation will inevitably steal the spotlight from Brendan Rodgers's return to Swansea with Liverpool and Tottenham's derby dust-up with West Ham.


Reading's manager, Brian McDermott, gave a thoughtful interview last week in which he expressed his relief that his Russian owner, Anton Zingarevich, was not like Roman Abramovich. Let's hope he's right. A victory at Aston Villa tonight would prove handy.


The fun keeps on coming for Benitez with Fulham's visit to Stamford Bridge on a very busy night of Premier League football, with 16 teams playing. Elsewhere, Manchester United entertain West Ham while Arsenal travel to Everton and Liverpool head to Tottenham, where last year they lost 4-0 and had two men sent off.


Depending on how you look at it, being named in an England side to face the All Blacks is either the most thankless task in world rugby or its greatest honour... probably both. Today Stuart Lancaster, England's head coach, unveils his masterplan for Saturday's set-to at Twickenham.


When sport is not compelling it is often unnecessary, and it is difficult to find anything in favour of Andrew Flintoff's boxing debut against American no-mark Richard Dawson. Win or lose, it is of no consequence. He is an ex-cricketer, is no more, has ceased to be, is bereft of sporting life. He should let us all rest in peace.


If England end their encounter with New Zealand in purple it will have nothing to do with their shirts and everything to do with the bruises covering their bodies. No doubt this will be a very tough afternoon. Meanwhile, Wales take on Australia on what should be another difficult day for the northern hemisphere's rugby teams. In football, there are two cracking London derbies: West Ham face Chelsea in the early game, followed by Fulham against Tottenham.