Editors' Picks: Dubai decider, a Six Nations headliner & the League Cup final

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Editors' Picks: Dubai decider, a Six Nations headliner & the League Cup final
Chelsea and Liverpool will battle it out for the League Cup trophy on Sunday
Chelsea and Liverpool will battle it out for the League Cup trophy on Sunday
AFP, Flashscore
Each week on Flashscore, our news editors look through the weekend's sporting calendar and pick out the must-watch events that you simply cannot miss.

Here are our editors' picks for the coming weekend.

Saturday, February 24th

WTA Dubai Championships final - 14:00 CET

It has been the tournament of upsets so far in Dubai, a host of top seeds have seen the exit door as the competition has progressed, leaving Iga Swiatek (22) as the last 'big name' player and heavy favourite to win her second WTA title of 2024.

The first top seed to fall was last month's Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka (25) at the round of 32 stage when she was shocked by Croatia's Donna Vekic (27) 7-6, 3-6, 0-6. That would start a domino of surprise results.

In the last 16, world number 11 Maria Sakkari (28) and world number nine Jelena Ostapenko (26) were both knocked out. And the theme continued during Thursday's quarter-finals as Australian Open finalist Coco Gauff (19), world number eight Marketa Vondrousova (24) and, due to injury, Elena Rybakina (24), were all eliminated.

Iga Swiatek is the only top 10 player left in Dubai but can she finish the job?
AFP

That leaves Swiatek as the only player inside the world's top 10 left in the competition. The world number one has yet to drop a set in Dubai and has been at her powerful and ruthless best this week.

She faces a tough test in Anna Kalinskaya (25) in the semi-finals after the Russian knocked out Gauff in the quarter-finals and looked impressive in a commanding win. But when tournaments reach the business end, Swiatek tends to thrive and the form she has displayed thus far makes her hard to look past.

The other semi-final on Friday follows Swiatek's and it sees Jasmine Paolini (28) face Sorana Cirstea (33). Both players have beaten tough opponents of higher ranking to make it this far but Paolini will have the advantage of an extra day's rest after Rybakina withdrew from Thursday's quarter-final before it started.

Scotland vs England - 17:45 CET

The Six Nations is all about epic rivalries and they don't get bigger than Scotland versus England. Not only is there a deep-seated bitterness between these nations but this is also the oldest international rugby fixture in the world.

The first clash between them was played in 1871 with the Scots winning. Since then, it’s fair to say, their southern foes have had the upper hand, historically. Of the 141 matches that have been played, England have won 76 times, Scotland 46 and 19 matches have been drawn.

However, after years of playing subordinate to England in the pecking order of Northern Hemisphere sides throughout the '90s and 2000s, Scotland have won the last three Six Nations meetings between these arch-rivals, powered by the best generation of players they have unearthed in decades.

No player is as key to Scotland’s resurgence as mercurial fly-half Finn Russell (31) who is undoubtedly one of the great creative 10s of the current era. England, meanwhile, are coming to terms with life without their own generational, albeit less electric, playmaker Owen Farrell (32), who is no longer available for selection having moved to the French Top 14.

Farrell was key to England’s encouraging World Cup run in 2023. Even without him, though, they have strung together two narrow wins in the opening two rounds of this year's Six Nations - over Wales and Italy. Scotland similarly edged Wales before losing to France two weeks ago.

Every one of those four matches was decided by a margin of four points or fewer. In a word, the Six Nations sides could hardly be closer at the moment. If you are to watch just one match this weekend, choose this one, one of the great rivalries in rugby. In the weekend's other fixtures, Ireland host Wales (also on Saturday) and France play Italy on Sunday.

Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig - 18:30 CET

Bayern Munich are nicknamed FC Hollywood, and if their 2023/24 campaign was put on the big screen, it would be categorised as a disaster film. Unfortunately for those with an affinity for the club, the end credits have not yet rolled, because while it may now be confirmed that Thomas Tuchel will be leaving after a disastrous run of form that has seen them fall eight points behind league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, he won't be doing so until the end of the season.

The German would have hoped to enter the beginning of the end with a nice and easy match. However, as has often been the case since he took the reigns at Bayern, he isn't getting what he wants. His side instead has to face one of the strongest teams in the league in RB Leipzig, who showed just how dangerous they can be in the first leg of their Champions League clash with Real Madrid.

They may have lost it 1-0, but they caused the Spanish giants a huge amount of problems, having nine shots on goal to their opponents' three and creating more than enough chances to get a draw at the least, with only some sloppy finishing letting them down.

Given that Real Madrid are considerably better than Bayern at the back, you get the sense that this is a match that could easily get messy for Harry Kane and Co., especially if Xavi Simons and Lois Openda are at their best. Should they suffer a fourth consecutive defeat, Tuchel's side will be forced to all but give up on winning their 12th straight Bundesliga title and instead turn their attention to ensuring they qualify for the Champions League.

Sunday, February 25th

The League Cup Final - 16:00 CET

The headline football match of the weekend will see the first major trophy of the English season, the League Cup, handed out. The Wembley decider will be contested between two Premier League sides that are used to facing off in recent years - Chelsea and Liverpool.

Not only did these two meet in the same final in 2022 but they also met in the FA Cup final that year, too. Liverpool won both those on penalties after goalless draws. The two sides' fortunes have gone in somewhat different directions since.

Despite the fact that Chelsea have struggled for any consistency in the last season and a half, they are still very much a competitive team that, on their day, can mix it with the best. This is illustrated by the fact that the Blues held Premier League champions Manchester City to a 1-1 draw just last weekend after also drawing with them back in November (4-4).

Chelsea have faced Liverpool twice this season as well, drawing in August but losing comprehensively at the end of January at Anfield (4-1). Good on their day but potentially terrible off it.

Recent meetings (FA Cup final won on penalties)
Flashscore

As for Liverpool, the imminent departure of their talismanic leader, Jurgen Klopp, has imbued their season with extra purpose. As if this vibrant side needed any further boost, Klopp’s decision to depart has lent his talented group extra impetus to claim silverware in honour of one of the great managerial tenures in recent history.

Both sides will be suffering from key absences due to injury. Liverpool should be without goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold while Chelsea will be missing the calming influence of Thiago Silva at the back.

Liverpool will be the strong favourites but form can go out the window in a Cup final. Can Chelsea step up and spoil Klopp’s long farewell or will Liverpool have too much quality? Follow the match with our live audio commentary to find out.

AC Milan vs Atalanta - 20:45 CET

The title may have already been all but wrapped up by Inter in Italy, but the fight for second is very much alive, and two of the sides well in that fight will go head to head on Sunday night. AC Milan may have seven points more and the home advantage but that doesn't mean that they'll be big favourites against Atalanta by any means, because the side from Bergamo are one of the world's in-form teams right now.

Atalanta are on fire
Flashscore

They've won their last six matches and eight of their last nine, with one of those victories coming at the San Siro against the Rossonerri in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia. After a few fairly disappointing campaigns, they now look every bit as good as when they qualified for the Champions League for three seasons in a row from 2019 to 2021.

Things aren't going quite so well in Milan where, after an improved run of form, Stefano Pioli is under pressure again following a 4-2 loss to Monza. They did squeak into the Europa League's last 16 but with Antonio Conte rumoured to be waiting in the wings, a second league defeat in a row would put the current manager in a precarious position.

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