The sporting week ahead 24/02/14-30/02/14

The league cup final and some top European football accompany cycling, tennis, boxing and the start of England’s one-day series against the West Indies – maybe cricket fans will finally get something to cheer about. Making a debut as spectacular as Fabrizio Ravanelli’s for Middlesbrough in 2006 (you all know what I’m talking about), Billy Taylor takes you through his picks for the sporting week ahead.

Monday: ATP Dubai 500 (Sky Sports 3 – 10am)

The annual tennis tournament in one of the world’s most wealthy cities is due to kick off tomorrow, and world number two Novak Djokovic is hoping to defend the championship he won from Tomas Berdych last year. The event plays host to other popular names in the world of tennis such as Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfred Songa. With the French Open being played in a few months’ time, this will be a good indication to who will be the players to watch in the next Grand Slam.

Tuesday: Champions League Round of 16 – Olympiakos vs Man United (ITV – 19:45)

This last 16 tie has already attracted its fair share of controversy. In December, it was announced the first leg of this fixture would be played in a partially closed stadium due to some safety concerns involving Greek hooligans. This shouldn’t put off Olympiakos though, who are in great form leading up to the match. The Super League leaders are unbeaten domestically all season, dropping only four points so far in their 26 match campaign. In contrast, Man United recorded their first away win in the league in 2014 on Saturday, and they should be fully aware of the danger Olympiakos poise.

Wednesday: Track Cycling World Championships start (BBC Red Button – 23:45)

As cycling is one of the only sports that Britain is actually good at, it might be worth checking out this year’s Track Cycling World Championships being hosted in Colombia. After performing well at the World Cup last November, British hopefuls will be confident of claiming gold medals in such events as the Team Pursuit and Keirin. Britain currently have the second highest amount of gold medals in the competition since it started in 1893, and following cycling success in the Velodrome at the Olympics, fans should be getting behind the competition more than ever.

Swansea will need skipper Ashley Williams at his best if they are to progress against Napoi
Swansea will need skipper Ashley Williams at his best if they are to progress against Napoli

 Thursday: Europa League Round of 32 – Napoli vs Swansea (ITV4 – 18:00)

Following a goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium last week, Garry Monk and his Swansea side will have the belief that they can cause an upset and progress to the next round. The Swans bombarded their opponents with shots and dominated the possession but were unable to find an end product, thanks to various saves from Pepe Reina. However, the away leg is set to be a much more difficult test; Napoli are currently third in Serie A and have lost just one game in the league all season. With more Europa League games straight after the final whistle, your Thursday night of football is sorted.

 Friday: England vs West Indies One Day International (Sky Sports 2 – 13:00)

The English cricket team kick off a series of One Day Internationals against the Windies on Friday. Admittedly I don’t know much about cricket, but apparently these two nations are rather good at it. West Indies recently won their Friday Twenty20 match against Ireland by 11 runs, meaning that that they’ll be high in confidence to face the English in Antigua. However, Indies opener Chris Gayle will miss the series through injury, which will be somewhat of a blow for them.

Saturday: WBO Lightweight Title fight – Ricky Burns vs Terence Crawford (Sky Sports 2 – 19:00)

Saturday night boxing is on the cards at the start of March, with Ricky Burns, making his first title defence since suffering a broken jaw, facing the American Terence Crawford. Crawford is unbeaten in 22 matches, meaning he will be a tough challenger for the Scottish champion but having home advantage will be a big boost for Burns. Crawford is an odds on favourite to win the bout, but one or two surprises could occur in Glasgow on Saturday.

Sunday: Capital One Cup final – Man City vs Sunderland

We end the week with the first major cup final in England this season. Manchester City are obvious favourites for the tie, but will be wary of weaker opposition following their FA Cup final defeat to Wigan last year. The Citizens annihilated West Ham 9-0 in their semi -final over two legs, whilst Sunderland prevented a Manchester derby in this years’ final by beating David Moyes’ side on penalties. The Black Cats have already beaten their opponents this season, but they will do well to get the same result at Wembley.

Billy Taylor

@billyfreelancer

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