Weekend Wanderings: Liverpool fans deal with the loss of Countinho, the battle of the Dons comes to a head and who will lose their unbeaten record out of the Chelsea Ladies and Manchester City Women?

After last week’s FA Cup bonanza some teams came out of it a lot better than others.

Just ask Mark Hughes.

So as the former Stoke City manager kicks back to watch most of the action from his sofa, like the rest of us, here’s a handy guide to point you to some of the biggest fixtures this weekend.

1) Will Philippe Coutinho’s departure affect Liverpool against Manchester City?

As Liverpool fans mourn the loss of one of their ‘fab four’ to Barcelona the team can’t afford to let it affect them.

That’s because they have the daunting task of hosting Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.

However, every cloud has a silver lining as they say and while the Brazilian has gone to pastures new Liverpool have added with the acquisition of Virgil van Dijk.

After the Dutchman scored the winner on his debut last week it will be interesting to see what he can bring to the team against arguably the most fearsome attack in the league.

Similarly Liverpool do still possess a ‘fab three’ in Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane and have plenty to trouble the Manchester City defence.

This could be a tasty encounter.

2) Can Aitor Karanka hit the ground running?

After Nottingham Forest dispatched with the services of Mark Warburton the hierarchy soon appointed Aitor Karanka as his successor.

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The former Middlesbrough boss takes over a team high on confidence, after they knocked holders Arsenal out of the FA Cup last week, and he certainly has the experience at this level to get teams promoted.

While promotion is probably far too much to ask for right now the Spaniard would certainly love to hit the ground running in his first game and what better way to do that than by beating Aston Villa?

Steve Bruce’s side are currently in a play-off spot but a trip to buoyant Forest will be a real test as they look to earn promotion back into the Premier League.

3) Who will win the battle of the Dons?

It is a very unique rivalry in this country – MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon.

After the original Wimbledon FC were relocated to Milton Keynes in 2003 – and the phoenix club AFC Wimbledon was born – everyone knew the relationship between the two clubs would be far from friendly.

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Similarly once the two teams ended up in the same league for the first time for the 2016-17 seasons this fixture was always one to keep an eye on.

This Saturday the pair meet again at Stadium MK with points vitally important at this stage as well as bragging rights.

AFC Wimbledon currently sit in the final relegation place in League One with 27 points.

MK Dons are two places higher on 29 points.

Not only is this an ultimate rivalry match, it’s a vitally important fixture in avoiding the drop to League Two.

4) Who will lose their unbeaten record – Chelsea Ladies or Manchester City Women?

As the official WSL website so handily indicates, someone’s ‘0’ has got to go.

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Chelsea and Manchester City are comfortably the two best teams in WSL 1, with Emma Hayes’ side second courtesy of a draw against Reading.

This Sunday the two go head-to-head in the semi-finals of the Continental Tyres Cup at Kingsmeadow, which means one of them will have to lose their unbeaten record.

With so much international quality on show this is sure to be a classic match up.

5) Can RB Leipzig haul themselves back into a Champions League spot?

While Bayern Munich may have pulled out ahead at the top of the Bundesliga (again) the battle for the other three Champions League spots is remarkably close.

Just four points separates Eintracht Frankfurt in eighth and Schalke in second.

This Saturday two of those contenders face each other as RB Leipzig, currently in fifth on 28 points, take on Schalke who are two points ahead of them.

The Gelsenkirchen side have arguably been the surprise package of the Bundesliga season under the management of 32-year-old head coach Domenico Tedesco but they have had just one win in their last five.

Similarly, after their impressive exploits last season in their first campaign in the top tier, Leipzig have also managed to get just the one win in their last five.

Both clubs will be looking to get back on track as the battle for Champions League football next season remains a closely fought contest.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992


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