Big Weekend: Man City v Chelsea, Ivan Toney v Liverpool, David Moyes, Palace palaver

Ian Watson
Ivan Toney, David Moyes and Cole Palmer.
It's a Big Weekend for Ivan Toney, David Moyes, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Can Chelsea cause Manchester City as many problems as they did in their 4-4 classic? Also: it’s a biggie for Ivan Toney against his boyhood club, and David Moyes as he fights for his job.


Game to watch: Manchester City v Chelsea
All we can hope for on Saturday evening is a thriller similar to the one Chelsea and City served up at Stamford Bridge in November.

A 4-4 draw prompted the usual recency bias around the best-ever debate, but it was undeniably classic Barclays. Are Chelsea equipped to offer a similar performance at the Etihad?

They would be going there in a far more dour mood were it not for a couple of added-time goals at Crystal Palace on Monday night. Chelsea fans left Selhurst Park belting out Bob Marley but they know they could just as likely as not be departing the Etihad on the back of a 6-0 shellacking.

Because City are doing what City do: grinding through the gears as business time gets ever closer. The Treble winners are on an 11-match winning run just as Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are getting back into their groove. Don’t worry about a thing, you say? Tell that to Mauricio Pochettino if those two are let loose and in the mood.

But City are not perfect. Defensively, they give up chances. Chelsea have to break a terrible habit and make sure they are ready to take them.


Team to watch: Crystal Palace
Initially, we suggested Sheffield United as the team to watch this weekend to see if they had any intention of mounting an unlikely survival push by building on last week’s win at Luton. But all eyes will be on Palace this weekend after a strange – and worrying – few days at Selhurst Park.

Here’s what we know as we write: Roy Hodgson was taken ill at Palace training on Thursday. Apparently, the episode left some players shaken, and though reports suggest he is doing well in hospital, details are, understandably, thin on the ground. Above anything else this weekend, we hope Roy recovers as fast as possible.

Secondary to that, all of this leaves Palace in a pickle of their own making. Before Hodgson was taken ill while taking training, just before a press conference he was set to host, it seems he was to be sacked and replaced by Oliver Glasner. The former Eintracht Frankfurt manager has reportedly agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract to take over the Eagles.

Now what do Palace do? They travel to Everton on Monday night for what has become a massive game at the foot of the table, towards where Palace are plummeting. Glasner’s appointment was intended to halt that slide. But the Eagles have to be seen to do right by Roy, even if it is too little too late for his reign.


Player to watch: Ivan Toney
Neither Toney nor Brentford were coy about the striker’s desire to make up for lost time when he returned to action following his eight-month ban and no-one has tried to hide the fact that, barring major surprise or catastrophe, the Bees’ biggest asset will be on his way in the summer. Brentford already appear to have signed his replacement.

Toney, though, has plenty to do in the meantime. Firstly, remove any doubts his suitors may have over his value – three goals in four games have taken care of that so far – and, secondly, impress upon Gareth Southgate his worth to England at the European Championships.

Southgate took some convincing over Toney before his ban and he’ll need to see more evidence before he inks the striker’s name on his squad list. So Toney will be gasping to ruffle Virgil van Dijk’s feathers when the Bees host Liverpool.

Toney rates Van Dijk as one of the best defenders – hardly a controversial shout – and he’s yet to score in three appearances against his boyhood club. There won’t be many better opportunities to catch the eye this season than putting that right on Saturday lunchtime.


Manager to watch: David Moyes
The West Ham manager has rarely, if ever, been more than five games from losing the Hammers fans, so it can hardly come as a surprise to anyone that a seven-game winless run has seen the tide turn against him once more.

The fact that run was prolonged by a six-goal humping by Arsenal made it inevitable that Moyes would come under pressure once more. Conceding half a dozen at home is bad enough – only once in the club’s history have they done that before – but the way they gave up those goals suggested there was more to it than simply a bad day at the office.

When a Moyes team offers no fight, no intent to close down and no desire to defend, the manager is in bother. Now it is a matter of how he chooses to respond at Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon.

Moyes doesn’t have many options – and he has even fewer than before the transfer window. Kalvin Phillips could come in to a midfield overrun by Arsenal but is anyone convinced the loanee is ready to make a difference after so long on Manchester City’s sidelines?

It is hard to think of a player more badly missed by anyone this season than Lucas Paqueta, who remains injured, while Moyes’ forwards aren’t likely to receive service from wingers since the Hammers barely have enough.

Most West Ham fans were long gone by the time the Irons were put out of their misery by the final whistle last week. At Forest, Moyes won’t get off as lightly unless there is a defiant response.


EFL game to watch: West Brom v Southampton
Three of the Championship’s top five are on the box this weekend, with Leeds tasked with going to Plymouth for a 12:30pm kick-off on Saturday afternoon, by which time Southampton might have bundled them out of the automatic promotion spots.

To do that, Saints will have beat a West Brom side sat snuggly in fifth, unable to move up and in no danger of falling amid the gaggle of play-off chasers. Just one point separates sixth and tenth, and the Baggies are bursting to keep a safe distance from that chaos.

Saints, for the first time in 25 matches, must bounce back from a defeat after Bristol City ended the unbeaten run that has powered Russell Martin’s side into promotion contention. Martin will have spent the time since working on a defence which has shipped six in their last two matches. Prior to that, they conceded the same amount over 13 games.


Harry Kane and his Bayern Munich team-mates look dejected after a defeat.

European game to watch: VFL Bochum v Bayern Munich
Bayern were one of the subjects of last weekend’s game to watch and we make no apologies for focusing on them again after two defeats in a week intensified the sense of crisis in Bavaria. And, frankly, there’s not much else going on across the continent this weekend.

Thomas Tuchel is in a spot of bother. Last week, in the crucial top-of-the-table clash with Bayer Leverkusen, he took a gamble on a new formation and it backfired spectacularly. At Lazio in the Champions League last-16 first leg, he went back to Bayern basics with a 4-2-3-1. That didn’t pay either.

It should be a little easier on Sunday afternoon away at lowly Bochum but, unsettlingly for Bayern, the 11-time champions have been riddled with uncertainty and doubts. They will get another chance to deal with Lazio in the Champions League; losing further ground on Leverkusen is unthinkable.