Big Weekend: Liverpool host Everton, Nathan Jones, Manchester City, Jadon Sancho

Ian Watson
Southampton manager Nathan Jones, Everton boss Sean Dyche, Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, and Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho.

Things could really spiral for Liverpool if they get Dyche-d in the derby. It’s also a biggie for Nathan Jones if he ever hopes to show his version of Saints…


Game to watch – Liverpool v Everton
Everton will justifiably fancy themselves in Monday night’s Merseyside derby. Which was utterly inconceivable only a few weeks ago.

It certainly was before Frank Lampard was shown the door and Sean Dyche strode through it, bringing with him his bleep test tape and all the long socks Sports Direct had in stock.

In the short time since, the new manager has re-instilled some of the values lost under Lampard, the principles that ought to be the minimum expectation for any functioning football club, and the semblance of a game plan. It was enough for the worst run club in the country to pack the leaders back off to north London with their second defeat of the season.

Dyche will simply ask his players for the same again in the derby against a Liverpool side who, in normal circumstances, would be perfectly well equipped to deal with an Everton frenzy. But these are not normal circumstances at Anfield. Not since 2014 have Liverpool faced their neighbours in such a lowly position. They are 10th now and could slip into the bottom half by the time kick-off comes around.

They kicked off three times inside the opening 12 minutes at Wolves last week, which was just one of Jurgen Klopp’s gripes after witnessing the latest of three three-goal defeats in 2023. Slow starts; wretched defending; impotent attacking; and a hole where his midfield once was – those things and more have sparked the biggest crisis of Klopp’s reign.

Klopp and the supporters have been waiting for the players to offer a response but all they have given this year are new nadirs. And Dyche could yet drag them to rock bottom by winning for the first time at Anfield in front of fans since 1999.

Read more: Is Jurgen Klopp still Liverpool’s best option to get out of this funk?


Manager to watch – Nathan Jones
The fact he’s still in position to manage Southampton against Wolves on Saturday is a win for Jones. We, and many Saints fans, expected that he would be gone after he took aim at his employer, his players and the supporters last week following another wretched performance at Brentford.

“I’ve allowed certain things to happen and gone away from what’s made me successful in the past,” he said after a 3-0 defeat left Saints bottom and four points adrift of safety. “I’ve listened to people and it’s been to my detriment – I’ve compromised too much. What you’ve seen today, that’s not the way my teams play.”

Whether that’s true or not, Saints fans have reached their verdict. “Your football is sh*t,” they sang amid cries for Jones to get out of their club. At this point, it’s hard to foresee them being swayed in that judgement.

The only way Jones might win them over in time to save his job is if he can prompt Saints to play his way – whatever that looks like – in time to beat a Wolves side who are doing a much better job of playing in their new manager’s image.


Player to watch – Jadon Sancho
We don’t know what’s really gone on in Sancho’s world in recent months. We don’t need to – no-one does beyond his and Manchester United’s tight circles. But it is clear that the player has struggled, physically and mentally, while his teammates have pushed on with rebuilding the Red Devils’ credibility.

On Wednesday night, though, it was heartening to see Sancho happy and healthy while lifting United out of a hole with his first goal since September in his first Premier League appearance since October.

United needed him against Leeds and the fact Erik ten Hag felt comfortable enough to trust Sancho with the burden is encouraging in itself. Before his introduction from the bench, the hosts were two down and failing to break the Yorkshiremen’s stubborn resistance, with their most dangerous attacker looking lost on the opposite flank from where he’s been such a threat, while Alejandro Garnacho struggled to escape from Luke Ayling’s pocket.

Ayling had a rather harder time shackling Sancho. Within minutes of his introduction, United halved their deficit before Sancho scored the goal Old Trafford craved the most.

Just as warmly as he was welcomed back against Forest last week, the winger received an ovation while being the last off the pitch following the full-time whistle, half-time in United’s two meetings in five days with Leeds. At Elland Road on Sunday, well-wishers will be rather more scarce but Sancho looks ready to handle whatever fire and fury Leeds fans can muster on what looks set to be his first start and another major step on what’s been a long road back for the 22-year-old.


Team to watch – Manchester City
City were already having a bad week. Then, on Monday, things got much, much worse.

By the time Aston Villa arrive at the Etihad, the champions will have had six days to digest the Premier League charges and what the consequences could be for their future and their past. In the present, though, Pep Guardiola has enough on his plate trying to rouse his squad from their slumber.

City almost sleepwalked to yet another defeat at Spurs, where it never seemed likely that they would end their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hoodoo, or even score their first goal there. Guardiola insisted that the 1-0 loss wasn’t down to any absence of effort, but there was plenty of evidence that the manager’s fear over diminishing hunger among his players remains justified.

Might the threat of seemingly limitless sanctions prompt a siege mentality at City? Guardiola needs to turn a negative into a positive if City are to keep Arsenal within sight.

Erling Haaland looks dejected


EFL game to watch – Birmingham v West Brom 
Your Friday night entertainment comes in the form of a Midlands derby between a Blues side that stopped the rot in thrilling fashion last week, and the promotion-chasing Baggies, who also enjoyed a huge result this week when manager Carlos Corberan resisted the lure of Leeds to sign a new contract.

Corberan has taken West Brom from 23rd to the play-off places with 10 wins from his 13 games in charge. Had he been in place at the start of the season, Albion would surely be challenging Burnley and Sheffield United for a place in the top two. But he wasn’t – Steve Bruce was – so they’re not.

John Eustace’s Blues will be hoping for back-to-back wins for the first time since October as they seek to further ease their relegation fears and move towards the snugness of mid-table. But their home record doesn’t bode well. Birmingham are yet to beat a top-half team at St Andrew’s this season.


European game to watch – Real Madrid v Al-Hilal
There aren’t many games on the continent that grab you by the balls this weekend. So off we pop to Morocco for the FIFA Club World Cup final that we all definitely knew was happening this week.

Saturday night’s showpiece will see Real Madrid take on Al-Hilal after the Saudi side shocked Flamengo in the semi-final, with the European champions making relatively light work of Al Ahly. The Brazilians and Egyptians will meet in the third-place play-off on Saturday afternoon.

Real probably need this, if only to kickstart their season. They currently trail Barcelona by eight points, with the La Liga leaders having the opportunity to extend that advantage to 11 points before Real return to domestic action if they can turn over Villarreal on Sunday.