Weekend Wanderings: Tottenham vs Chelsea, Fulham and Second City derby

The last international break of the year is now done and dusted and, much to the relief of Roma’s social media team, all eyes are back on club action.

This weekend there are plenty of questions to be answered – though not quite as many questions as were raised when we all collectively gasped at that Patrice Evra video.

With some big rivalries, tough match-ups and managers wanting to get a golden start, Alasdair Hooper looks at where you should be turning your attention in this weekend’s fixtures.

1) Will Ranieri get life at Craven Cottage off to the perfect start?

The Premier League’s bottom club Fulham decided to wield the axe and sacked manager Slavisa Jokanovic last week.

The man to replace him is everyone’s favourite Italian Claudio Ranieri, who was last seen on these shores working wonders at Leicester and steering them to the title.

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With Fulham bottom and shipping goals like no tomorrow, Ranieri has a vitally important game to start off with – a proverbial ‘relegation six-pointer’ against similarly average Southampton.

Mark Hughes’ side have plenty of problems of their own but you get the sense that the three points on offer here could be crucial when we look at who does eventually fall through the trap door to the Championship.

2) Will Sarri’s bubble burst or can Pochettino reign supreme?

In recent years Tottenham vs Chelsea has proved to be a spicy affair and that looks unlikely to change.

There’s plenty at stake this Saturday in this London derby with just a point separating third-placed Chelsea and fourth-placed Spurs.

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Mauricio Sarri’s Blues remain unbeaten but draws in some of their big clashes have held them back slightly.

On the other side, Spurs’ three defeats in the league this season have then sitting in the final Champions League place but they are more than capable of giving Chelsea problems.

This is sure to be an evenly-matched Saturday night fixture perfect for neutrals.

3) Will Atletico Madrid leapfrog Barcelona at the top of the La Liga?

To say it is congested at the top of La Liga would be a bit of an understatement right now.

Of the top four all bar one are on 23 points, with Barcelona top on 24 points.

While surprise package Alaves lie in fourth at the moment, most of the culprits at the top are names we have become used to seeing over the years – particularly Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

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This Saturday night third-placed Atletico will host Barcelona who have to bounce back from a 4-3 loss against Real Betis in their last league outing.

Regardless, Atletico’s normally reliable defence is sure to prove a test for the Barcelona attack.

4) Will Dean Smith make a mark in his first second city derby?

This Sunday is the game plenty of Aston Villa and Birmingham City fans will have had metaphorically ringed in their calendars – the Second City Derby.

Dean Smith is still in his early days as Aston Villa manager while Garry Monk is performing admirably at Birmingham.

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Ahead of this game there is plenty on offer for both clubs and it’s not just reduced to bragging rights.

The teams are locked in 11th and 12th in the table and both have 24 points.

This all points to an afternoon game that is sure to be evenly balanced and there is also likely to be plenty of passion on display at Villa Park.

5) Will the injury-hit Rossoneri make an impact in this Champions League shootout?

In Serie A this Sunday we can look forward to a match-up between two of the strongest teams in the league, Lazio and AC Milan, who are both battling it out for a Champions League spot.

Lazio currently occupy fourth spot, with AC Milan a point and a place behind, but Gennaro Gattuso has plenty to think about regarding team selection.

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The Rossoneri are in the midst of an injury crisis missing Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara, Mateo Musacchio, Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura for the trip to Rome.

Lazio will be keen, therefore, to capitalise on the situation and strengthen their position in the upper echelons of the table with Ciro Immobile expected to lead their attack.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992

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