Weekend Wanderings: The festive football continues

With most fans still recovering from binging on food at Christmas dinner, the Boxing Day football action certainly helped to burn off some calories.

One of the most eagerly anticipated days in the footballing calendar certainly served up a treat with plenty of goals and shocks.

What’s more, a two-horse title race suddenly became a three-horse race.

After just a matter of days, the teams must dust themselves down and get straight back into action.

Here is what to keep an eye on this weekend.

1) Can Liverpool handle the pressure?

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What must it be like to be a Liverpool fan right now? The club has waited for a first league title since 1990 and sit six points clear at the top of the table.

Of course Liverpool have been in similar positions before and come unstuck – the most recent example would be under Brendan Rodgers in the 2013-14 season – and fans will be hoping that the same thing doesn’t happen again.

However, this weekend kickstarts a tough couple of fixtures that will really test their title credentials.

While most people will be looking ahead to the game against Manchester City on 3 January, the Reds host Arsenal this Saturday.

The Gunners could only manage a draw on Boxing Day against Brighton, but you sense that if Liverpool make it through these next two league games unscathed that could well set them on their way to victory.

Of course, if they slip up, not only will City be lurking in the background but so will in-form Tottenham.

2) Can Manchester City play themselves out of their rut?

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It’s almost become an alien concept of late – Manchester City are enduring a real slump in form.

By their usual standards City aren’t playing to their full capabilities as three defeats in four games has left them in third spot in the table.

City have now been overtaken by Tottenham and if they don’t get their act together soon the title is in danger of slipping away from them.

On paper, this Sunday’s fixture against Southampton should be straight forward – they did beat the Saints 6-1 in November.

But this will be a different incarnation of Southampton. Gone is the air of waywardness under Mark Hughes replaced instead by a wave of positivity under Ralph Hassenhuttl.

Back-to-back victories have restored a sense of confidence and against a deflated City anything could happen.

3) Welcome to the Championship Jose Gomes

In all truth, new Reading manager Jose Gomes couldn’t have wished for a worse start in his first game as boss.

The struggling Royals were a goal and ten-men down after just nine minutes against Millwall on Boxing Day.

While they managed to stop Millwall scoring any more, they did then lose another player to a red card – Leandro Bacuna on that occasion – before the game was done.

Paul Clement’s replacement is certainly under no illusion regarding the job that he faces and in order to get his team kick-started points will be needed very quickly.

On Saturday, the Royals travel to a team who had until very recently seemed destined for a miserable season.

But, in another example of how quickly things can change in response to shotgun reactions, Steve McClaren’s QPR are riding high in eighth place following their worst-ever start to a season.

Can the situation at Reading get any worse? We’ll soon see.

4) Can Rangers make the Scottish title race interesting again?

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Despite the notion the Scottish Premiership is a one-team league, it seems pretty much everyone in the top half has had a go at being in first place.

Hearts, Kilmarnock and Rangers have all spent time as the top team – with Aberdeen coming close every so often – but ultimately at this stage it’s Celtic who are three points clear with a game in hand.

However, this Saturday we get to look forward to one of the more heated derby game’s around as the Hoops go up against second-place Rangers.

A victory for Steven Gerrard’s team will put them level on points with Brendan Rodgers’ team throwing open the title race once again.

Celtic undoubtedly remain favourites ,with all manner of resources at their disposal, but after losing Leigh Griffiths for some time as the striker battles off-field problems, the season is far from straight forward.

What’s more they have just come off the back of a draining 4-3 victory against Aberdeen on Boxing Day so how much will be left in the tank?

This could actually be a very interesting Old Firm matchup.

5) Can Hibernian find any level of consistency?

Of course the Old Firm derby isn’t the only one north of the border on Saturday as Hibernian and Hearts face off in the Edinburgh derby.

After their blinding start to the season, Hearts have fallen back down to earth under Craig Levein and currently sit fifth.

Meanwhile, Neil Lennon must be tearing his hair out at Hibs because they are capable of really putting on a show and playing well.

Naturally, they followed an impressive result against Celtic with three straight draws, which probably explains why they are where they are in eighth.

Likewise injuries are starting to mount up at Easter Road but, as people know, if Hibs are up for the occasion they can be a match for anyone.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter at @adjhooper1992

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