Weekend Wanderings: Arsenal vs Tottenham, Patrice Evra’s Premier League return and the Second City Derby
Football continues to be as high-pressured and ruthless as ever before and with the fixture line-up on Saturday and Sunday, there is no shortage of compelling narratives. With sackings, approaching derbies and top-of-the-table clashes on offer, teams will be desperate for some valuable points this weekend.
Alasdair Hooper takes a look at five things you should be keeping an eye out for in this weekend’s football action.
1) Will Arsenal’s new signings lift them closer to Tottenham in the north London derby?
With the rise of Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino, and players such as Harry Kane to turn to, Spurs have arguably become the top dogs in North London.
Arsenal – who seem to lurch from success to crisis and back to success in the blink of an eye – will hope to stick a metaphorical boot into their rivals this Saturday.
Wembley plays host to the North London derby, which is already a fiery occasion anyway, but the game takes on extra significance in the race for the Champions League places.
Both sides are currently outside the top four, with Spurs in fifth and Arsenal in sixth, but both teams are capable of turning on the style when they need to.
The Gunners have new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to turn to in the hope they can act as a catalyst in a resurgence this season.
Tottenham, meanwhile, will be hoping their star players can perform to their full potential but – as with most of the top six clashes this season – it is sure to be a hugely entertaining game.
2) Can Patrice Evra help West Ham fans to ‘love this game’ again?
A matter of months after kicking a Marseille fan, former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra is back in English football after signing a short-term contract with West Ham.
Whether he has been brought in to play or to man the club’s Instagram account remains to be seen but Hammers fans are in need of a pick-me-up.
After a decent January showing, the East London club’s performances have dropped again. Combine that with a poor transfer window, an injury crisis and sacking their director of recruitment following claims of racial discrimination, things are not well.
This Saturday they host Watford, who will be full of confidence under their new manager Javi Gracia after they beat Chelsea 4-1 on Monday.
Will pressure mount on David Moyes and the West Ham board after this?
3) Is Paul Heckingbottom the man after ‘mistake’ Thomas Christiansen?
Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani felt the need to apologise to fans after axing Thomas Christiansen as manager this week.
“I did a mistake and I am sorry. I apologise for the lack of results,” the Italian told Sky Sports News.
So will his replacement Paul Heckingbottom – plucked from Barnsley – prove to be the correct decision?
According to Leeds’ owner, the 40-year-old “knows the territory” and performed admirably in his role with the Tykes.
His first task is tough, however, as Leeds travel to face Sheffield United who are just two points ahead of them.
4) Can the Second City derby spark Birmingham into action?
Birmingham City fans have not enjoyed their season so far as the Blues have languished in and around the relegation zone for much of the campaign.
However, back-to-back wins in their last two games have lifted them up to 19th but it is still too close for comfort.
This Sunday they shouldn’t need any motivation whatsoever as they travel to city rivals Aston Villa – who are continuing to push for promotion under Steve Bruce.
Third-placed Villa have won their last five and will automatically be favourites but we’ve seen strange things happen in this fixture before.
5) Can Liverpool Ladies give a better account of themselves?
The standout fixture in WSL 1 on Sunday is the game between Manchester City and Liverpool – with the two sides very familiar with competing at the top of the table.
Last time out, however, the Reds were far from their best as they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Arsenal on Wednesday night.
With the quality of players they have at their disposal, Liverpool will have hoped to go toe to toe with Arsenal but they now have to put that out of their minds.
Table-toppers Manchester City are a fearsome opponent but Liverpool – who sit third despite their midweek loss – possess enough quality to do some damage.
If they turn up and perform to their full potential this could be quite a game.
Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992
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