Weekend Wanderings: Spies, lies and PowerPoint presentations

This week, there’s been PowerPoints, binoculars and more managerial departures – just your average week in the world of football then.

As another weekend comes around, and with everyone now an expert on Derby’s tactical plans, it’s time to turn our attention to what happens on the pitch.

There are several exciting fixtures this weekend and these are the five you should be keeping an eye on.

1. Can Arsenal close the gap on the Champions League spots?

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Following last week’s surprise defeat to West Ham, Arsenal have left themselves with some work to do if they are going to qualify for the Champions League.

The Gunners currently lie fifth on 41 points, six points behind Saturday’s opponent Chelsea.

Games between these two London rivals have usually given us some sterling entertainment – you only have to look at this season’s reverse fixture way back in August where Chelsea won 3-2.

There’s also a number of other talking points to contend with, namely how do you solve a problem like Mesut Ozil?

Whether it’s team line-ups or what happens on the pitch, Saturday night’s game at the Emirates is sure to throw up plenty of discussion.

2. Will the Eagles help derail another title bid?

There’s something special about Crystal Palace and Liverpool title challenges, you only need to look back to 2014 for evidence.

Here we are in 2019 with Liverpool’s latest attempt to challenge for the league title as they sit four points clear of Manchester City in second.

While this season possibly represents Liverpool’s best chance to end their long wait for a league trophy, a lot of people were saying the same thing about Brendan Rodgers’ team in 2014.

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A literal slip-up at Chelsea and then a defensive meltdown at Crystal Palace helped end those dreams.

This Saturday, Crystal Palace could well have a say in how things end up once again come the season’s end.

Let’s not forget they have already beaten Manchester City this season and are of course led by an ex-Liverpool boss in Roy Hodgson.

While the league table may suggest it’s a bit of a miss match, this game could easily prove to be a tough outing for Jurgen Klopp’s players – and it’s a challenge they will need to overcome.

3. Can Real Madrid leapfrog Sevilla into third?

In case it had passed you by there has been a lot going on at Real Madrid this season and not all of it has been positive.

Real Madrid are fourth in LaLiga after a troubling season full of managerial changes, inconsistent performances and various other deficiencies.

Above them in third, and level on points, are Sevilla who happen to be Real Madrid’s opponents this Saturday.

Pablo Machin’s Sevilla go into the game off the back of a defeat but make no mistake, Real Madrid face a stern test.

While the game represents an opportunity for Real to get back into third they could easily find themselves three points behind, or out of the Champions League places with Alaves still hot on their heels.

4. Will Leipzig put a spanner in their rivals bid for a first league title since 2012?

Since RB Leipzig’s promotion into the top tier of German football, they and Borussia Dortmund have developed something of a rivalry.

While the foundations of that rivalry may be born out of the so-called people’s club (Dortmund) versus the club backed by a major corporation (Leipzig), it has turned ugly in the past.

However, while those horrid incidents have thankfully been confined to the past, what is also true is that both sides are pretty good on the pitch.

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Leipzig are fourth and, of course, Borussia Dortmund are leading the league helped in part by English starlet Jadon Sancho.

Dortmund are currently six points clear of Bayern Munich in second but there is still a long way to go.

Leipzig are harbouring Champions League ambitions of their own, so Lucien Favre’s team will need to be at its best to take three valuable points.

5. What can we learn about two of the World Cup favourites?

If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock, 2019 is a World Cup year in the world of women’s football.

While there are still a few months until the tournament gets under way in France, this Saturday we are treated to a fixture between two sides many think will be challenging for the trophy.

The world-number-one ranked USA take on the tournament hosts France in Le Havre and it gives us a chance to see how each side is shaping up in this vitally important year.

The most recent meeting between the two teams came last March at the 2018 SheBelieves cup where they played out an evenly-matched 1-1 draw.

But with players like Eugenie Le Sommer, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan part of the two squads there will be no shortage of quality on the pitch.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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