Big Weekend: Fulham and former Gunners host Arsenal; Antonio Conte, Liverpool, Calvert-Lewin

Ian Watson
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

It’s not the biggest weekend, we admit. Antonio Conte and Spurs will continue to go through the motions, but Arsenal, Liverpool and Dominic Calvert-Lewin should be psyched…


Game to watch – Fulham v Arsenal
We’ll level with you: this is not one of the bigger weekends. There are some interesting fixtures in a variety of contexts but none that really grab you by the balls, twist and demand your undivided attention.

But every weekend now is massive for Arsenal. And, in terms of the table, this is one of toughest tests of the weekend, with just six places separating them and Fulham. Only two other games, both separated by five bottom-half places, are more closely matched.

The Gunners will barely notice. There was almost the entire Premier League between them and last weekend’s visitors but rather than the stroll most outsiders expected, what transpired was one of the most dramatic 98 minutes, from the very start to the very finish, the Emirates has staged.

The euphoria generated from Reiss Nelson’s last-gasp winner and the celebrations that followed could leave Arsenal high or utterly spent. It’s probably a good thing that they’ve had the inconvenience of a Europa League fixture in midweek to help reset and refocus before they make the trip across London.

Joao Palhinha won’t be waiting for them at Craven Cottage as he serves the second match of a two-game suspension. The Portugal midfielder has been pivotal for Marco Silva and in his absence at Brentford, the Cottagers lost their first game in eight.

But Arsenal will be reunited with two players gasping to make a point. Bernd Leno insists he has “no bad energy” towards Arsenal but neither can he believe he was so cheaply sold by the Gunners. Willian has arguably a bigger score to settle after a nightmare spell at the Emirates.


Team to watch – Liverpool
The only side to experience anything like the high Arsenal felt last weekend was Liverpool after their rather more straightforward but similarly satisfying steamrollering of Manchester United.

Now what? They go to bottom-of-the-league Bournemouth on Saturday and the story of their season so far suggests it will be anything but simple on the south coast. Surely the Reds won’t waste last weekend’s achievement and the ground they have gained in the race for the top four by chucking in points to a team they thrashed by even more than the seven goals they put past David De Gea last week?

It should be a routine victory for Liverpool. They have stopped conceding goals – ignoring the Real Madrid collapse, it’s been five Premier League clean sheets in a row – and, all of a sudden, the forward line can’t stop scoring.

But Bournemouth have shown they are capable of causing problems for the big boys and Christ knows they need the points every bit as much as Liverpool. They certainly won’t roll over to have bellies tickled like United last week.


Manager to watch – Antonio Conte
Are Tottenham fans at the point of half-hoping for a home defeat to Forest on Saturday just to accelerate the inevitable departure of their manager?

There is no doubt the majority of Spurs fans want Conte gone and outsiders are questioning the point of continuing seemingly for the sake of it. The Italian will be out at the end of the season anyway and absolutely nobody is having any fun in the meantime.

But unless Daniel Levy calls time on the latest serial winner to lose the Spurs support, Conte will trudge wearily to the touchline and go through the motions once more, presiding over a side who long since seem to have forgotten what they are there for.

Conte won’t change so nor will this Spurs side. Since seeing off Manchester City last month, they’ve chucked in the FA Cup, exited the Champions League and lost to Leicester (heavily) and Wolves. They remain in the top four but the stench of Liverpool’s breath is overpowering and Forest will fancy their chances of claiming a result that could see the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium turn toxic, assuming the apathy of it all hasn’t rendered the home fans mute.

Read more: This Tottenham Hotspur is all fur coat and no knickers as they exit Champions League meekly


Player to watch – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The Everton striker looks set to return from his latest lay-off against Brentford on Saturday. Sean Dyche certainly needs him.

Calvert-Lewin has played just an hour under Dyche, starting the win over Arsenal in the manager’s first game in charge. Since then, Everton have been looking at everything around the England striker – his diet, his car, his mattress – to assess just why they can’t keep him fit.

The urgency to get to the bottom of a year and a half of persistent injury problems is clear when you look at Dyche’s other senior attacking options. One-goal Neal Maupay and…nope, that’s it.

Against a side that hasn’t lost in 12 Premier League games, a run that stretches back four-and-a-half months, Dyche and third-from-bottom Everton desperately need a presence through the middle, ideally the one that scored 21 goals for Carlo Ancelotti the season before last. Especially since the Toffees face a run of fixtures against three of the top seven.


EFL game to watch – Norwich v Sunderland
Three Championship games on the box this weekend which, like the Premier League offerings, all look a bit ‘meh’.

Blackburn’s visit to Stoke is certainly one way to spend your Friday night, before Blackpool go to Bristol City on Saturday lunchtime. Sunday’s EFL offering comes from Carrow Road, where Sunderland badly need a win to get back in the play-off picture.

Few on Wearside really expected the Black Cats to make a play for the top six, especially after Alex Neil walked out to boss Stoke, but Tony Mowbray has inspired an unlikely promotion push. At least, he had prior to three straight defeats that has left them in 11th place and six points off the pace. Worst of all was Neil returning to the Stadium of Light last week and beating his old side 5-1.

Sunderland still look good to finish higher than any other promoted team over the last four seasons – 15th is the bar – but going to Norwich commences a run of four games that sees them face four of the top six, including the top two. Which could be a problem for a side shorn of a striker while leaking goals.

Jude Bellingham applauds the Borussia Dortmund fans after the Bundesliga match against Freiburg.


European game to watch – Schalke v Borussia Dortmund
It’s quite an underwhelming weekend on the continent too. Though the 100th Bundesliga Revierderby promises to spice up your Saturday evening if Palace v City isn’t quite cutting it.

Schalke and Dortmund ding-dongs always seem to catch fire. Battles between the two sides, separated by less than 40km, have averaged three goals per game over the last 99 meetings, and both go into the weekend’s clash at the Veltins Arena in optimistic mood, despite the hosts sitting second from bottom and the visitors being knocked out of the Champions League in controversial fashion on Tuesday.

That was Dortmund’s first defeat of the year with eight consecutive victories putting them level on points with leaders Bayern Munich. Under Thomas Reis, Schalke have been on something of a run themselves, climbing off the bottom thanks to two wins after four successive goalless draws. It’s ridiculously tight at the foot of the table, even more so than the Premier League, with Schalke one of four teams level on 19 points.