Five days to the weekend

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The best sporting action this week...

Monday

PAUL Lambert’s struggling Aston Villa welcome English champions Manchester City to the Midlands in tonight’s Barclays Premier League game. Villa can climb out of the relegation zone with a point from this evening’s match, but Roberto Mancini’s side will be well motivated not to lose any more ground on their Manchester rivals, United, who are 15 points ahead of them come kick-off, albeit City have a game in hand. The draw for the Scottish Cup semi-finals takes place at Hampden this lunchtime, with Celtic, Falkirk, Dundee United and Hibernian all eager to see how the balls fall.

Tuesday

THE Scotland rugby team to face Wales will be announced today, ahead of Saturday’s keenly-anticipated Six Nations clash at Murrayfield. In the Champions League, Manchester United will hope to convert their 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Bernabeu into a round of 16 aggregate win over Real Madrid at Old Trafford. In the SPL, fifth-placed St Johnstone visit Tynecastle to play second from bottom Hearts. In cricket, England begin the first Test against New Zealand at Dunedin.

Wednesday

AFTER their comprehensive 3-0 dismantling by Juventus in the first leg at Parkhead, Celtic would need a proverbial miracle to go any further in the Champions League. But Neil Lennon is targeting a second-leg victory nonetheless, if only to prove his contention that the first-leg scoreline flattered the visitors. Paris St Germain play Valencia in tonight’s other Champions League game while in the SPL all-but relegated Dundee welcome St Mirren to Dens Park.

Thursday

THE men’s main draw at the BNP Paribas Open gets underway in Indian Wells, California today, with an extra frisson of excitement now that Rafael Nadal is back from injury and in top form. Andy Murray is also in the mix along with defending champion Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. In golf, the WGC-Cadillac Championship starts in Florida, while there’s a Europa League round of 16 run-out tonight for Newcastle, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Friday

THE weekend’s rugby feast begins this evening with the Scotland Club XV select taking on their Irish counterparts at Millbrae, home of this year’s Scottish club champions Ayr. The Test cricket continues in Dunedin, as does the tennis in California, and the golf in Florida, while motor racing gets a look-in with the Mexican Rally. Horse-racing enthusiasts need look no further than Ayr, where there’s an attractive seven-race card this afternoon on the opener of their two-day March meeting, which is seen as an integral part of the build-up to next month’s Coral Scottish Grand National Festival.

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