The sporting week ahead (29/04/12)

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The Independent Online


Two teams hoping to play in the Champions' League host two sides auditioning for the Championship. Chelsea welcome their west London neighbours Queens Park Rangers, so expect tension and violence and maybe some inventive football, at least from Adel Taarabt. At White Hart Lane it's the Premier League's two most downwardly mobile teams, Tottenham versus Blackburn; neither has recovered from Ryan Nelsen's switch from the latter to the former.


Two years ago it was the Carling Cup semi-final, last year an FA Cup semi-final. "The most important Manchester derby ever played" is now an annual event, as we will see in the 2013 Europa League final. Until then, a Premier League title decider will do.


Those coming down after last night's football can get their fix of hype with the Indian Premier League. Delhi Daredevils, with their galactico batting of Kevin Pietersen, Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, have set the pace so far, to the surprise of no one. More of the same is expected against Rajasthan Royals today.


Lancashire's defence of their County Championship continues at home against Nottinghamshire, which means inevitable attention on which England players are fit and on form for the early-summer series against West Indies. Durham's Graham Onions probably could not imagine many things sweeter than that, and will show just why against Warwickshire.


England's batsmen are a bigger issue than their bowlers. Andrew Strauss has stopped scoring. Having returned to Middlesex in pursuit of runs, see how he gets on against Worcestershire.


It's the beginning of the end of the World Snooker Championship. There is nothing quite like the lengthening matches and tensioning frames.


It was once the climax of the domestic season but the FA Cup final is now just the tying-up of a sub-plot: Liverpool have already won their first trophy since 2006, while Chelsea have a more important date coming up. The return of Chelsea's big-game hunting instincts under Roberto Di Matteo has been a thrill; if this is Didier Drogba's last final in England, expect him to leave a mark.