Weekend Wanderings: Top teams look to bounce back after international break

Following a week of international football and the arrival of Uefa’s Nations League, it’s time to turn our attention back to matters closer to home.

This weekend, club football returns and managers will have spent many hours honing their tactics and preparing their teams to grab valuable points.

Here are five games Alisdair Hooper thinks you should be keeping tabs on in the latest edition of weekend wanderings.

1) Will Liverpool maintain their winning form in the first big-six clash?

Life is very good right now if you’re a Liverpool fan, with the club sitting top of the league after four wins out of four.

The Reds’ squad is arguably the strongest they have had for years and, with just one goal conceded and nine scored so far, they are an ominous prospect for all the other teams.

As good as their start to the season has been, this weekend they face their first big-six clash as they travel to London to face Tottenham.

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Mauricio Pochettino’s team are always a side to worry about but following their bruising defeat to Watford the mood in the camp could be somewhat deflated.

Can their defence hold strong against Firmino, Salah et al? We will soon see on Saturday afternoon.

2) Is Paul Clement’s job hanging by a thread?

For a man whose career as an assistant manager can be rivalled by few others, Paul Clement’s life as a manager hasn’t gone terribly smoothly.

The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich number two lasted nine months at Derby County and less than a year at Swansea City.

His latest role at Reading, where he was brought in as Jaap Stam’s replacement, also appears to be heading south as his team lie bottom of the Championship with two points.

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Regardless of who you think is to blame for the Royals’ struggles, the vultures appear to be circling on Clement.

This Saturday they travel to Preston North End – another defeat and it could be curtains.

3) Are Hearts the real deal?

In a league that has been dominated by two clubs for so long, many doubt that Hearts’ perfect start to the season will last.

However, the Edinburgh side’s form doesn’t look like it will curtail any time soon. An underdog surge to the title would echo the mammoth achievement of Leicester City in 2015-16.

While it will take some time for anyone to be convinced that Hearts can genuinely challenge for the Scottish Premiership title, fans will understandably be enjoying their excellent start to the campaign.

This Saturday, they travel to Motherwell and manager Craig Levein is still undecided about returning to the dugout following a recent health scare.

But, even if assistant Austin MacPhee takes charge once again they will remain favourites to maintain their points advantage over second-placed Celtic.

4) Can Schalke cut out their mistakes against rivals Monchengladbach?

Last year’s Bundesliga runners-up Schalke have not lived up to their talent or billing so far this campaign with two defeats in two.

Domenico Tedesco’s team have suffered from lapses of concentration and costly mistakes which led to their opening defeats to Wolfsburg and Hertha Berlin, respectively.

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This Saturday, the Gelsenkirchen side travel to a Borussia Monchengladbach team who have a win and a draw from their opening two league games.

Either way, with two talented teams going head to head it is sure to be entertaining.

5) Will Napoli bounce back against youthful Fiorentina?

After a promising start under Carlo Ancelotti, Napoli came unstuck in their last Serie A outing losing 3-0 to Sampdoria.

If the side from Naples want to get back on track fast a win would be the perfect medicine, but that is easier said than done.

On Saturday, they host a Fiorentina side who are exciting, youthful and – with two wins in two games so far – have caught a lot of people by surprise.

La Viola boast some talented young players in their squad, particularly the likes of Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone, and they could quite easily catch out the Napoli back line.

If Napoli are to get back to winning ways, they will have to be at their very best.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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