Your guide to the weekend’s best sporting action

Champions Cup pool stages reach their conclusion, McIlroy’s comeback continues

Rory McIlroy’s return to action continues in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty

Rory McIlroy’s return to action continues in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty

 

What’s on?

All four provinces are in action as the pool stages of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup reach their conclusion, Rory McIlroy continues his return in Abu Dhabi, new faces could be on show in the Premier League and one of Ireland’s star chasers has his last run before Cheltenham.

Friday

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Sky Sports Golf, 7.0am-1.0pm)

Rory McIlroy’s return from injury continues in Abu Dhabi, as he plays his second round of the HSBC Championship following a flawless opening 69 on Thursday. Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne are also in action, along with world number one Dustin Johnson.

Australian Open (Eurosport, 12.0am-2.45pm)

Rafael Nadal is in action as the year’s first Grand Slam continues in Melbourne, while Nick Kyrgios takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Australia v England, second ODI (BT 1 from 3.0am)

Also down under England take on Australia in the second one day international at the Gabba, looking to build on their 1-0 series lead.

Saturday

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Sky Sports Golf, 8.30am-1.0pm)

The third round of the HSBC Championship gets underway in Abu Dhabi.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea (Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm)

Things have not gone Antonio Conte’s way since his war of words with Jose Mourinho, with Chelsea having drawn their last five games in all competitions. However, the champions scraped past Norwich City on penalties in their FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday night, and they can move back up to third in the Premier League with victory over struggling Brigton on Saturday.

James Lowe could feature for Leinster against Montpellier on Saturday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
James Lowe could feature for Leinster against Montpellier on Saturday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Champions Cup, Montpellier v Leinster (Sky Sports Action, 1.0pm)

Leo Cullen’s Leinster are sitting pretty at the top of Champions Cup Pool Three with five wins from five, and they need just a losing bonus point away to Montpellier to ensure they head into the knockout stages at the tournament’s top seeds. This would mean they face the eighth seeds in the quarter-finals in April - a potentially poisoned chalice given back-to-back European champions Saracens could fill that spot if they beat Northampton Saints (BT3, 3.15pm), and the result in the other Pool Two fixture between Clermont and the Ospreys goes their way (BT2, 3.15pm).

Meanwhile Connacht, who have already qualified for the knockouts of the Challenge Cup, take on Oyonnax at the Sportsground knowing a win will guarantee them a home quarter-final (2.30pm).

Arsenal v Crystal Palace (Sky Sports Premier League, 3.0)

Arsenal could potentially be playing the first game in a post-Alexis Sanchez era when they take on Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon. It remains to be seen whether the Chilean will be in Manchester United’s squad when they take on Burnley at Turf Moor (3.0). Elsewhere among the 3.0pm kick offs there are two relegation clashes between Stoke and Huddersfield, and West Ham and Bournemouth.

Racing from Ascot (1.30pm-4.0pm)

The Clarence House Chase is the Saturday feature at Ascot, with Willie Mullins’ freewheeling star Un De Sceaux set to make his final run before heading to Cheltenham. Un De Sceaux is currently a 8-13 favourite to retain the crown he won in 2016 and 2017, with Nicky Henderson’s Brain Power seen as the main danger at a best price of 3-1 (Oddschecker).

There is also racing from Haydock, with three Grade Twos on the card, while the Irish racing action comes from Navan.

Manchester City v Newcastle United (BT1, 5.30pm)

Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League table could be whittled down to nine points by the time they face Newcastle on Saturday evening. Pep Guardiola’s side are looking to bounce back from a first defeat of the season last weekend.

Un De Sceaux will bid for a third consecutive win in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Un De Sceaux will bid for a third consecutive win in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Sunday

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Sky Sports Golf, 8.30am-1.0pm)

The HSBC Championship reaches its conclusion in Abu Dhabi.

Australia v England, third ODI (BT1, 3.0am)

Australia and England return to Sydney for the third one day international of the five match series.

Champions Cup, Munster v Castres (Sky Sports Action, 1.0pm)

Munster can join Leinster in the last-eight of the Champions Cup with victory over Castres at Thomond Park on Sunday. Johan van Graan’s side currently lead Pool Four by a point from Racing 92 (16 plays 15), with the Parisians travelling to play basement side Leicester Tigers at Welford Road (Sky Sports Arena, 1.0pm).

Champions Cup, Wasps v Ulster (BT2, 3.15pm)

Ulster’s win over La Rochelle in Belfast last weekend has left them in pole position in Pool One, but they face a tricky assignment away to Wasps. Les Kiss’s side have 17 points - one more than La Rochelle - and victory in Coventry would guarantee their place in the quarter-finals. A losing bonus point might also be enough to see them through.

Racing from Thurles

Sunday’s racing action in Ireland sees the renewal of the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles (2.50). The previous two winners of the race, Don Cossack (2016) and Sizing John (2017), went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the same year. Willie Mullins’ Black Hercules, last seen finishing third behind Sizing John in the same race last year, is set to make his return to action and is a general 2-1 second favourite behind Henry De Bromhead’s Sub Lieutenant (5-4).

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur (Sky Sports Premier League, 4.0pm)

Southampton haven’t won in the Premier League since last November and are well and truly caught in the relegation mire. They welcome Tottenham to St Mary’s in Sunday’s sole top flight fixture as they bid to arrest the slump.

Snooker: 2018 Masters (BBC2, 1.0pm-5.15pm, 7.0pm-11.0pm)

The Masters reaches its conclusion with Sunday’s final at the Alexandra Palace, London.

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