Kieran Davies looks ahead to a weekend that offers slumps, leaks and local skirmishes but most of all an opportunity to remember.
On Sunday, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, football pales into insignificance. As we take stock of the losses this country felt during WW1, the supposed ‘Great War’, we can be forgiven for finding our beloved game somewhat irrelevant. Whoever your team, they may ruin your weekend but that is the extent of the harm. We take this day of remembrance to appreciate those who have paid the greatest sacrifice for their country. This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the end of this war but in the modern day it is not just the fallen of WW1 we commemorate but also those who have been affected in one shape or form by every conflict this country has been involved in since. ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ We cannot imagine having to serve national service or volunteer for war, but I think it is best summed up by Harry Patch (The Last Known Tommy) when he said……
‘I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.’
Rest in peace Harry, your fight is over, we will never forget what you and your comrades did for us.
This weekend will see past and present meet in a Manchester derby. The red half of Manchester used to dominate this league and now that baton has been handed to the blue half. City have got themselves into a habit of beating sides easily of late scoring six goals against both of their last two opponents. Now we know this figure still haunts United fans, but on the back of a big win at Juventus in the week, Jose couldn’t have asked for better preparation for this one. Nine points separate the rivals which even at this stage of the season seems a lot already, so it is important that if they want to put themselves in a position to challenge their neighbours this is a must win for United. It has been a bizarre week for City with Pep’s ex-players likening his management style to be ‘better than sex’ and Raheem Sterling now getting penalties (and £300k a week new contracts) for stubbing his toe on the ground, it all must seem very surreal for the Spaniard. A head to head with Jose seems a fitting end to a weird week for Guardiola.
Chelsea keep defying the odds as pundits and fans expect to see their current form nosedive each week but Sarri’s side do not seem to be showing any signs of faltering. With Everton travelling to their bogey ground this weekend and Eden Hazard having completed an hour of football in his rehabilitation from a back injury, Stamford Bridge may not have anything to offer Everton yet again. Despite fans believing that they have finally turned a corner under their new manager Marco Silva, I don’t think they have the personnel to trouble Chelsea. After suffering an embarrassing defeat to Serbian beet farmers this week, Jurgen Klopp seems to have a mini-slump with his much-lauded Liverpool team. His side haven’t won in their last four games and while they are still unbeaten in the league, it is about winning and not avoiding defeat if you want titles. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back, but with Fulham visiting Anfield this weekend, this should be a routine home win. The Londoners defence has more leaks than a St David’s Day school eisteddfod.
After a jittery evening in Europe turned into an epic night of celebration, Tottenham have got themselves into a good run of form and still have a chance of not being sued by the Advertising Standards Agency for their ads for their new ground. London may see Champions League football into the new year after all. With a trip to an out of sorts Crystal Palace, Pochettino will be expecting this run to continue. With Emry’s Arsenal hot on the heels of their North London rivals, they seem intent on setting their sights on a return to Champions League football. After a pleasing draw with Liverpool last weekend, Gunners fans will see this as a massive improvement on the games where they faced Chelsea and Man City earlier in the season. Currently, Bournemouth and Manchester United are also interested in getting themselves in the mix for a top four spot. Whether teams will be able to keep up this pace throughout the season only time will tell.
After an emotional afternoon hosting Leicester City last time out, Cardiff City know the huge importance of this weekend’s visit of Brighton to the Cardiff City Stadium. A team who predominantly in the league have struggled on the road, Warnock’s side will not have a better chance of securing a much needed three points. Things are so tight at the foot of the table, things can be turned on their head in one Saturday afternoon. Newcastle and Southampton, both desperate for points, face in form Bournemouth and Watford respectively. Benitez will be looking to build on a win at St James’ Park last time out and distance themselves from the bottom three. Puel will try to rebuild Leicester’s season after the tragic loss of their owner, with Burnley travelling to pay their respects this weekend. From what we have seen so far, the application of Puel’s players has been second to none looking to channel their grief into points and performances. Kudos Leicester. So on what will be a weekend of sombre reflection and exciting action, reality and fantasy collide, outcome yet to be seen. Like Jose Mourinho’s own trophy haul, we will never forget.