Weekend Wanderings: Christmas treats, injuries and rivalries

With Christmas growing ever closer there will be plenty of managers hoping for an early present – some much-needed points.

The winter period means a relentless list of fixtures and bloating injury lists. A good run of form now could be the difference when we get to season’s end.

Here are the games to keep an eye on this weekend.

1) Can Manchester City reclaim top spot, at least temporarily?

Last weekend, City suffered their first league defeat of the season to Chelsea- though much of the coverage surrounded the comments aimed at Raheem Sterling.

The loss proved pivotal as Liverpool finished the weekend top of the Premier League table in what is increasingly becoming a two-horse race.

The Reds’ newfound defensive solidity has them sitting pretty a point clear of Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions.

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But this weekend it’s the boys in blue who get a chance to put on the pressure first as City host Everton this Saturday.

Marco Silva’s team is a side to worry about with a strong spine going down the heart of the XI.

Additionally, with City struggling with injuries, it could present an opportunity for the Merseyside club to claim another upset.

But, if the game pans out as most would expect, a win for City would leave them top after Saturday’s action.

Then it’s over to Liverpool…

2) Can Liverpool’s arch rivals halt the feel-good atmosphere?

It seems to be a consensus that with Liverpool and Manchester City seemingly so far ahead the so-called ‘big six’ clubs are probably most likely to give both sides cause for concern when it comes to dropping points. That proved to be the case last week when Chelsea did just that.

So, what about this weekend? City play first, and Liverpool follow with a game against arch rivals Manchester United at Anfield.

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While the Red Devils are far from playing vintage football right now, as highlighted by their defeat to Valencia, there is plenty to suggest that they would love to make a statement in this game.

As former Chelsea star Pat Nevin commented on the Totally Football Show, it’s highly likely Jose Mourinho will deploy the ‘basketball’ players in this game to disrupt Liverpool.

It awaits to be seen whether Jurgen Klopp’s side can see off the challenge and stay at the top of the pile.

3) Is the end coming for Jos Luhukay?

To refer to myself briefly, I am seeing the effects of Jos Luhukay’s tenure as manager of Sheffield Wednesday first hand.

In the Essex Live office, I sit opposite the sports editor – a die-hard Wednesday fan whose hope and joy is slowly being crushed with each passing week.

He’s not someone to call for a manager’s head but even he has tweeted the words ‘Jos out’ this season.

With Sheffield Wednesday’s defensive woes, financial issues and lowly league position combined – they are currently 17th in the Championship – it makes for depressing reading.

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So why does this weekend’s trip to Swansea carry such significance?

That would be because Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri will host a fan’s forum on 20 December.

Sheffield Wednesday’s situation echoes that of the UK Prime Minister who recently faced a vote of confidence after questions were raised about her leadership. A loss to Swansea would make Luhukay’s position ever more fragile ahead of that forum.

4) Can Torino upset the odds and dish out a first defeat to their rivals?

In Weekend Wanderings land we love a derby and Italy treat us to one this Saturday.

Serie A giants Juventus are flying high at the top of the league (again) having won 15 and drawn just one of their 16 league fixtures so far.

However, while the reigning Serie A giants may be setting the pace perhaps a derby fixture represents the perfect opportunity for them to become unstuck.

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That’s where Turin rivals Torino come in – and they are no push overs.

Torino currently sit sixth in Serie A ahead of the likes of Roma and have lost just three times in the league this year.

They possess plenty of exciting players who could do some damage.

Regardless of the outcome, the game itself is sure to be an occasion nonetheless.

5) Can Thierry Henry’s Monaco claim a big scalp in their bid to beat the drop?

When Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was appointed Monaco manager many thought he had probably bitten off more than he could chew.

The team that claimed the French title in 2017 under Leonardo Jardim was virtually unrecognisable and have been languishing in the relegation through much of the season.

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However, recently there have been slight murmurings – only slight – that green shoots could be sprouting with Monaco picking up two wins in their last five games.

They still lie second bottom of the table and this weekend they come up against one of the biggest sides Lyon, who, despite their fourth-place position and ability to stifle Manchester City, are far from the smoothest of outfits right now.

If Monaco can put in a display to match Henry’s unwavering belief that chairs should be tucked in, then there might just be a performance in them that can spark things into life.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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