Weekend Wanderings: Derbies galore as Celtic take on Rangers and Everton threaten Liverpool for Merseyside dominance
The international break has now concluded and, to reward many of us for sitting through some drab contests (let’s be honest here), club football is back with a bang.
Saturday in particular is packed full of derby games and rivalries, so if the government hasn’t cancelled your plans already, you now have another perfect excuse.
Here are the upcoming games you can enjoy in this Weekend Wanderings.
Celtic v Rangers (Saturday, 12:30pm)
The Scottish Premiership gets back underway this weekend with the always-eventful Old Firm derby.
You could also argue that Saturday’s game holds far more intrigue from a neutral perspective than it has for a long time.
Before the start of the season, the majority of people predicted that Celtic would comfortably sweep home to their 10th consecutive league title. That might still happen – but so far Rangers have been brilliant.
Everyone knew Steven Gerrard’s side were good and would challenge Celtic. But the way they are playing has led many to believe this season could actually feature far more of a title race than we ever thought.
Ahead of this match Rangers sit top of the table, one point clear of Celtic having played a game more. Quite simply, for whoever comes out on top, it could be a vital three points.
Everton v Liverpool (Saturday, 12.30pm)
From a huge derby in Scotland, to a huge one in England, this means you will probably have to do a lot of channel-flicking if you want to catch all the action.
This edition of the Merseyside derby is, again, one that neutrals will be drawn to far more than normal.
That may have a lot to do with what happened last time Liverpool played a game – no one needs a reminder of that score – but it is also down to the fact that Everton have raised their game significantly since the start of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team not only sit top of the table, with four wins in four, but they also have the most in-form striker in the league right now in Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
There’s also the small matter of neither team’s defence being particularly convincing – so don’t expect a 0-0 draw.
Manchester City v Arsenal (Saturday, 5.30pm)
Later on Saturday evening, we have another big game between Pep Guardiola and Diet Pep, also known as Mikel Arteta.
While there will be countless mentions of how Arteta was Guardiola’s assistant, the former Everton midfielder is quickly forming his own identity and project as Arsenal boss.
All the pieces in the jigsaw are yet to come together, but there has been some significant progress, not to mention the arrival of Thomas Partey on deadline day.
For City there is also a real sense that they need to click into gear after the 5-3 loss to Leicester and the draw against Leeds last time out. Once again this could be a game that might throw up a different result to what we’ve been used to over the last few seasons.
Inter Milan v AC Milan (Saturday, 5pm)
Also on Saturday evening, Italy has its own derby to throw at TV viewers – the Milan derby.
Despite AC Milan’s recent decline, this fixture has always stayed special – there is no denying the history both AC Milan and Inter have between them.
Indeed, with the major overhaul going on at the Rossoneri, AC Milan look to be in the ascendancy again and currently lie second in the table with three wins in three.
Inter showed last season that they have their sights on the title under Antonio Conte, but their preparation for this game – as with everything in the world right now – has been disrupted by coronavirus.
Conte’s side have reported six positive cases, including the likes of Ashley Young and Milan Skriniar, which is likely to affect the team sheet.
Milan, meanwhile, have had two positive cases in Matteo Gabbia and Leo Duarte.
Arsenal Women v Tottenham Hotspur Women (2.30pm)
There seems to be a jinx in the WSL right now: every time you mention a game ‘could’ be Alex Morgan’s debut, it then doesn’t happen. So, this time around let’s gloss over that!
Instead let’s focus on the latest instalment of the North London Derby, which should be a really interesting watch for many fans.
When the pair met recently in the FA Cup, Spurs more than held their own before slightly falling apart in the last 20 minutes or so.
But Arsenal have launched an internal review this week following a spate of injuries to first team players. That means they are likely to be without Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Steph Cattley, and Lisa Evens – who all have muscle injuries – and Jen Beattie who has a calf injury.
Jill Roord is also still side-lined with a knee injury.
Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro has suggested the lengthy coronavirus break has taken its toll on the players – but that is likely to be of little comfort if it greatly impacts the team he puts out on Sunday afternoon.
You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992
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