After the International break where players traveled round the globe to represent their national sides both in games that mattered and some that added no points to their scoreboard, the bread and butter of league football returns, and it returns with a bang in The Premier League.
It doesn’t come bigger than the Manchester Derby which has been fueled by City’s spending big in the past few years and matching up to their more illustrious neighbors, to further spice up the encounter is the coming together of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, both very successful managers in their own rights, two of the best in the world with a strong history between them, not to be carried away though, the weekend also promises fixtures like Liverpool up against Leicester City and Arsenal up against Southampton in a roundup of games which climaxes with Everton’s visit to Sunderland on Monday night, here are my thoughts on the Manchester Derby and a preview of some of the fixtures. Welcome back to the exciting world of The Premier League
The little matter of the MANCHESTER DERBY
Pep Guardiola will be leading his side out at Old Trafford for his first taste of the derby, and his 17th encounter against a side led by Jose Mourinho spanning seven years in which the Spaniard has been victorious on seven occasions to Jose’s three. This is a showcase of two of the most expensive teams in the league, a display of the top talents in the world and a rivalry amidst two of the best coaches in club football, the two were supposed to have met during pre-season but somehow nature and the gods of football conspired to make their first meet a competitive one, now here are three talking points expected from the game;
1. Jose VS Pep – No doubt, the two managers have quickly tried to settle into their new teams and enforce their style from the off, Jose has adapted his 4-2-3-1 formation and already sign of a stingy backline is being seen at United, for Pep, it’s been changes at various level, from Hart losing his position as top choice Goal keeper because of reasons other than keeping the ball out the back of the net to his full backs playing more as wingers and a resurgence to Sterling’s game, both managers are laying down their markers and have maximum points from three games played.
‘I know what the derby means to Man Utd. If you want to be successful, you have to win the game’, Jose Mourinho
‘I have a lot of respect for Mourinho…. The rivalry is more from the media and we can’t control that’, Pep Guardiola.
Those were comments taken from their pre-match conferences, the game kicks off lunchtime and hopefully both sides go all out and not tactically ruin what could well be an explosive game and perfect curtain raiser for the weekend.
2. Battle of the Youngsters – recently, there has been this debate on social media concerning Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Kelechi Iheanacho who is in line to replace the suspended Sergio Aguero in the City forward, no doubt, the duo represent the finest U-21 talents in the world and whilst Rashford who broke into the team last season scored in the final minutes of United’s victory at Hull to give Jose’s side maximum points and continued with his fine form with a hat-trick for the U-21 English side, Kelechi has also continued to impress with his stunning goal for Nigeria against Tanzania. It would be interesting to see if they get to start and how much of an influence they may have, considering how Rashford scored the only goal last season.
3. Tactical Dilemma – Now this is one area that excites me, both managers have their styles and are rigid with it, but with the fixture this early in the season, both sides won’t be worried if the game ends in a draw, especially City being the away side. Claudio Bravo is set to make his first start, but what will Pep make of his central defense, John Stones seems to have earned his place in the team, with Kolarov posting impressive performances in central defense, Otamendi lurks around and skipper Vincent Kompany is back to training, it would also be exciting to see how Pep goes up against United’s ‘giant’ midfield of Pogba and Fellaini and with his full backs pushing high up, Martial and Mata may just have room to wreck havoc. He also has a decision to make in Aguero’s absence as finding the right player to lead the lines would be key. For Jose, his biggest dilemma remains the Wayne Rooney position, criticized yet again for his performance for the Three Lions, with many calling that he be dropped (the umpteenth time) for Marcus Rashford.
Key Points from other games
Tottenham Hotspurs VS Stoke – Spurs have gathered five points from a possible nine, whilst Stoke are rock bottom on the table with one point, the Potters will be hoping to start changing this statistics and will rely on new acquisitions in Wilfred Bony and Bruno Martins Indi to help steady a ship that has been rocked with injuries.
Arsenal Vs Southampton – The Gunners bounced back from a poor start to their season with an impressive win just before the break against Watford, for Southampton, new manager Claude Puel is still in search of his first win with the team but this is a ground where he is unlikely to pick one, new signing Mustafi is in line to make his debut for the gunners alongside Lucas Perez whilst record signing for the Saints, Sofiane Boufal is struggling to be fit. I expect the Gunners to get maximum points from this.
Swansea VS Chelsea – Antonio Conte has adjusted to life in England quickly, he was able to add David Luiz to his ranks on deadline day and he has mentioned severally his willingness to try several formations during the course of the season, for Swansea manager, Guidolin, he is meeting a familiar face in Conte and has his record signing Borja Baston available to start. Chelsea has started well and should pick maximum points at Liberty Stadium.