Big Weekend: Man City v Liverpool, Solskjaer, Adams, Leicester

Will Ford

Game to watch – Manchester City v Liverpool

They’re still the two best teams in the Premier League, Man City have found some form and Liverpool have found a new level. This is not just the game of the weekend, but will likely set the tone for the rest of the Premier League season.

A Liverpool win will spark the first pundit claims that the title is already won and a race between bookmakers to be the first to pay out. Manchester City represent the point man of the title-chasing platoon, getting the lay of the land, working out whether the territory they dare to tread is as hostile as it appears to be or if there’s hope for themselves and the other chancers.

It’s not quite so cut and dry, but should City lose they will be eight points behind their rivals with a game in hand: a significant margin to make up on a team so capable of stringing wins together.

There are selection quandaries up top for both managers. Jurgen Klopp has an enviable choice to make between Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, while Pep Guardiola must decide whether to stick with Ferran Torres in the No.9 role, or reinstate his actual No.9 after Gabriel Jesus scored on his return in the Champions League.

Player to watch – Che Adams

“We are more than Danny Ings,” Ralph Hasenhuttl said after he revealed his main man would be out for four to six weeks following knee surgery. “It’s a big loss but it’s important now for other players to give us alternatives. Nobody has to play like Danny Ings, every player should play his best possible game.”

It’s Che Adams that will need to maintain his peak and pick up the slack in Ings’ absence. He – like Ings – has been excellent this season. The question is whether he can be quite so excellent without his strike partner. Three of Adams’ four goal contributions this season have come in direct tandem with Ings and the 24-year-old has just one Saints goal to his name when his better half isn’t there alongside him.

Manager to watch – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

A game against an injury-ravaged Everton side represents a potentially soft landing for Solskjaer after the midweek comedy: a win could viably be spun as a scalp.

Everton sit 11 places above United, have been more often excellent than not this season, and Carlo Ancelotti is a world-class manager worthy of the apologists’ list of Solskjaer conquerees.

It’s the sort of game United do win: when they don’t have so much of the ball and can use Marcus Rashford’s pace on the counter. But the few remaining disciples that will inevitably take to social media to let us know how we were once again wrong to doubt the tactical genius of their manager can save their strong arm and fist pump emojis.

The Everton side that will line up on Saturday – short of Richarlison (who they’ve not won without in the Premier League since he’s been there) and James Rodriguez – is nothing special and has vastly inferior talent to United, no matter who Solskjaer selects.

A win tells us nothing. A loss could at least result in the plug being pulled: we hate to see him suffer.


Team to watch – Leicester City

“Because I’m a British manager, I got lucky, that’s the way it works in these games,” Brendan Rodgers said after Leicester’s superb win over Leeds on Monday.

It’s a weird chip on the shoulder of someone that was and has been consistently heralded by us and seemingly most others. Almost as he was saying it Mauricio Pochettino was in the Monday Night Football studio naming Rodgers as the manager he most admired when he arrived in the Premier League. He’s a very good tactician and manager who has masterfully dealt with a stack of injuries at Leicester. The petty gripes do nothing for him.

Jamie Vardy’s already got seven goals, Wilfried Ndidi’s absence has gone almost unnoticed such is the form of Nampalys Mendy, and James Maddison was ominously good in his cameo against Leeds.

But Nuno Espirito Santo – foreign though he is – is also a brilliant manager. His Wolves side are yet to truly click this season, but four clean sheets in their opening seven games means they can go above Leicester with a win.

Football league game to watch – Norwich v Swansea

With pacesetters Reading losing their last two games, Championship sides are bunching up beneath them. Swansea and Norwich – who face each other at Carrow Road on Saturday – are three and four points off The Royals respectively in second and third.

Teemu Pukki has rediscovered his goalscoring touch somewhat in more pliant surroundings after a brief up before a long down in the Premier League. Andre Ayew, meanwhile, has earned the singing praise of Swansea boss Steve Cooper.

“Andre’s been an excellent player for us,” Cooper said recently. “He’s become a real talisman.

“Off the pitch he’s a real positive influence on everybody, particularly the young boys. He’s so determined to do well. He knows he carries a bit of individual responsibility in scoring the goals and leading the way, as he often does.”

The Ghana captain scored 18 goals for Swansea last season and already has five to his name this term.

European game to watch – Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich

The German duo predictably sit on top of the league, tied on points, each losing one game and winning the other five. Robert Lewandowski got off to a slow start to the season, scoring goal in the first two matches. He’s got nine in his last three to end the drought.

Dortmund have won just two of their last 12 Bundesliga meetings with Bayern, drawing one and losing nine. And such is Bayern’s stranglehold on the German top flight, Dortmund’s hopes essentially fade to nothing if they can’t get positive results when they play each other. The last time Dortmund won both Bundesliga fixtures between them was also the last time they won the league, under Jurgen Klopp in 2011-12.


Will Ford is on Twitter

It might well be the biggest weekend of the season so far. The two biggest title contenders finally clash in a long-awaited meeting, but will Leicester or Wolves come out on top? Liverpool also play Manchester City or something apparently.