Weekend Wanderings: El Clasico, Ipswich move on from Paul Hurst and Scottish League Cup final

Another weekend of football is right around the corner and the stakes are as high as ever – just ask recently sacked Ipswich boss Paul Hurst.

With crunch rivalry games to look forward to, as well as some teams looking to get the gears in motion after a turbulent start, Alasdair Hooper discusses the fixtures you should be looking out for this weekend.

1. Can Ipswich turn a corner after the sacking of their boss?

If ever you need an example of how quickly things can change in football look at the aforementioned Paul Hurst.

After almost getting Shrewsbury Town promoted last season the 44-year-old’s stock was arguably never higher, and he jumped at the chance to manage in the Championship when he took over at Ipswich Town in the summer.

Following the long tenure under Mick McCarthy, fans at Portman Road were clearly optimistic before the season’s start but – after one win in 14 league games – Hurst was fired on Thursday five months into the job.

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Ipswich currently sit bottom of the Championship – with the former manager of rivals Norwich, Paul Lambert, touted as the favourite for the job – but in the short term the club need points.

This Saturday they take on Millwall, who currently floating just above the relegation zone in 20th.

If Ipswich are to avoid the relegation trap door, they need to start performing sooner rather than later.

2. Will we actually be talking about football following the Scottish League Cup semi-finals?

It seems strange to be thinking about the semi-finals of a cup competition in October, but that’s where we are in Scotland.

However, what was even more strange – or farcical depending on how you look at it – was the SPFL’s handling of the fixture scheduling.

With both Celtic and Rangers drawn apart for the semi-finals, and both in Europa League action, the semi-final ties had to happen on the Sunday. But weirdly, and seemingly without any due consideration, the SPFL decided it was best to hold both games at Hampden Park on the same day just hours apart.

Save for the travel disruption that would have caused both Aberdeen and Hearts fans, the decision was criticised and ridiculed before Police Scotland waded in over how they could realistically police such an occasion.

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Instead the SPFL had to backtrack and the situation we face now on Sunday is this – Hearts will play Celtic at Murrayfield at 1.30pm while Aberdeen play Rangers at Hampden at 4.30pm.

Celtic were left angry, feeling the fact that the tie being moved to Edinburgh would act as home advantage for Hearts, but all in all it seemed to be as good a solution as you could hope for following that original decision.

So will we actually be talking football once both games have finished? Hopefully.

The Murrayfield clash appears to be the most enticing, with Hearts still going strong at the top of the league, while the Hampden encounter appears to be more straight forward as Aberdeen form-wise are nowhere near where they should be.

3. Will Chelsea Women actually kick into gear?

Six games into the WSL season and we are in the baffling situation where reigning champions Chelsea – who have looked so good under Emma Hayes – are seventh and, remarkably, have scored just two goals.

With the wealth of attacking talent that team possesses that is simply mind-boggling.

This Sunday the Blues host a Liverpool team who are still very much in transition and still trying to work out what is best for them.

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From a Chelsea perspective, this represents a perfect opportunity to put to bed their early-season struggles and finally click into gear.

With Arsenal in simply staggering form at the top of the table every missed step from Chelsea dents their hopes of retaining the title – if they haven’t already given up on that already.

4. Can we expect a classic Clasico without the two titans of world football?

This Sunday we are treated to a fixture that always gets people excited as Real Madrid and Barcelona go head to head in the latest El Clasico.

Except this time we have to make-do without the two players who have been the standout beacons in this most famous of fixtures.

With Cristiano Ronaldo now plying his trade in Turin and Lionel Messi out injured with a broken arm, it is a game that needs someone else to step in and steal the show.

However, both teams could be going into this game in better form.

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Barcelona may be top of the table – but it is just one win for them in their last five league games – and for Real Madrid things are even worse.

They sit seventh and boss Julen Lopetegui is hanging onto his job, with some such as journalist Graham Hunter saying the decision has already been made to axe the former national team manager.

After being sacked by his country two days before the start of the World Cup for taking the Real job, you must wonder what is going through the former goalkeeper’s head.

5. Can Napoli showcase their full ability in the Derby del Sole

On Sunday we get to enjoy a classic Serie A fixture as Napoli – who came so close to beating PSG in the Champions League, take on Roma.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli side have continued to be the next best thing to Juventus despite the departure of Maurizio Sarri and will look to keep the pressure up on the Turin side.

They are just four points off the top at present and will need a big performance this Sunday as Roma come to town.

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Eusebio di Franceso’s team have had their ups and downs domestically – currently lying in seventh place – but they know that should everything click into gear they stand a chance.

Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to SPAL showcased the worst of Roma’s youthful team but their 3-0 Champions League victory against CSKA showed them at their best.

Who knows what Roma side we will see take on Napoli this weekend?

Follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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