The glossy rumbling publicity machine that is Sky Sports has been building up to Man City v Man United (Sunday, k/o 1.30pm Sky Sports 1) all week. Gloating slow motion shots of the Poznan and a gravity-defying, bicycle-kicking Wayne Rooney have hyped up 90 minutes of North West rivalry with Herculean exaggeration.
Despite all the hyperbole, England’s two top teams in recent years have frequently lived up to the billing with some classic derbies. Sir Alex Ferguson, apparently stumbling out of a lager advert, called 2009’s 4-3 win for United “probably the best derby of all time” after Michael Owen netted the winner in the sixth minute of injury time. City got their revenge though in 2011 with a 6-1 win at Old Trafford.
Both teams failed to impress midweek in Europe, but United were already through to the Champions League knockout stages and City already out. This match will give a far better idea of who will top of the table come Christmas.
Later on Sunday West Ham play Liverpool (k/o 4pm Sky Sports 1). After heaping further misery on Rafael Benitez’s porous Chelsea last week, Big Sam will want another strong home performance – who needs the Olympic Stadium when narrow Upton Park provides such upsets? High and very occasionally mighty West Ham striker Andy Carroll is unavailable due to injury and the fact he’s on loan from Liverpool. Suspended Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is also out, and without an obvious scoring replacement this match may be short of a goal or two.
If that’s the case, snooker’s UK Championship final weekend (beginning Saturday, 1pm BBC1) may offer a tempting alternative Robin reds shivering in quiet anticipation as the crisp white cue ball glides across the prim green bays under warm lampshades. Of course, this festive fantasy is spoiled by the turnips in waistcoats who actually play the game, but the skills of Mark Davis and Mark Selby still make for hypnotic viewing.
England’s Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton return to club rugby duties with Saracens this weekend after a triumphant climax to the Autumn internationals against New Zealand. The challenges don’t let up though: a daunting trip to Limerick to face European heavyweights Munster (Saturday, 5.45pm, Sky Sports 1) may well bring England’s star twosome back down to Earth.
Finally, given the recent Arctic conditions why not embrace your inner Pingu and tune in to a spot of curling? Skittles on ice with heavy kettles and brooms were all the rage back in 2002 when Britain won its first ever Winter Olympic gold, and Eurosport will be showing the European championships live all this week (beginning Monday, 8.30am).
Also on TV:
Premier League Football: Fulham v Newcastle (Monday, Sky Sports 1, 7pm)
International Cricket: India v England 3rd Test continues (from 6am Saturday, Sky Sports 1)
Heineken Cup Rugby: Toulouse v Ospreys (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, 1pm)
Sale Sharks v Toulon (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, 3.15pm)
Munster v Ospreys (Saturday, Sky Sports 1, 5.45pm)
League Cup Football: Bradford City v Arsenal (Tuesday, Sky Sports 1, 7.30pm)