3 of the biggest derbies in the world are set to go this weekend with the Merseyside Derby with Liverpool traveling across Stanley Park to Goodison Park to face Everton, then we have the Manchester Derby with Manchester City having a chance to caputure the league title at home against their bitter cross town rivals Manchester City. Finally then on Sunday Real Madrid welcomes Atletico Madrid to their crib for what is generally one of the most bitter derbies in Europe.
Merseyside Derby (NBCSN Saturday 7:30amET)
I normally do just a Liverpool preview blog but since I already did one about the lineup yesterday which to me is the biggest storyline for this I’m just doing to do one preview blog.
Everton is kind of in no man’s land in the standings. Currently they’re in 9th with 40 points, they’re safe from relegation but they really don’t have much to play for other than pride. I guess you could still say they have an outside chance at 7th which as long as Tottenham, Chelsea, or Manchester United win the FA Cup will be a Europa League spot, so I guess they have that to cling onto. But this is the Merseyside Derby this would give their miserable season and miserable existence some meaning if they can beat Liverpool, so you know they will be amped up for this one.
I hate that this game is being played now. It is always fun beating them, but with this sandwiched between the two legs of the Manchester City Champions League quarterfinals I just want to rest guys and get ready for Tuesday I don’t care about anything else right now to be honest. As I wrote yesterday I am hoping for at least 5 changes, but don’t get me wrong I want to win this because we still need wins to wrap up a top 4 spot.
Liverpool’s injury crisis is very worrisome right now. We know that Joe Gomez, Adam Lallana, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, and Ben Woodburn are all definitely out. It came out last night that Emre Can is out for this game and Tuesday against City (which is a problem) but James Pierce said that the Mirror’s report of him being out for the season isn’t 100% accurate that Liverpool still thinks that he will be back at some point this season. Plus Mo Salah is a question mark but either way I would be fine if he sat. This is by far the worst the injuries have been this season and could not have come at a worse time with trying to finish off the top 4 finish and continue this deep run in the Champions League all these injuries are a problem.
This is a delicate situation for Klopp obviously City is a higher priority but winning league games still has to be a priority right now until they have top 4 mathematically wrapped up.
I went into detail yesterday about what Jurgen Klopp should do, so let’s say I was right with what he should do. The team is Karius, Clyne, Lovren, van Dijk, Moreno, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Solanke, and Ings.
Looking at Everton’s injury situation it looks like Idrissa Gana Gueye is set to return after missing their game last week against Manchester City. He will be a welcome addition as he runs their midfield. Also returning for this for Everton is Ashley Williams who just served a 3 game ban. Their other injuries are Holgate, Sigurdsson, Mangala, and McCarthy who are all out.
Everton has been much better at home this season with 9 wins, 2 losses, and 5 draws, so playing them at home is a different prospect than it was playing them at Anfield, even though in the first league meeting Everton was able to get out of Anfield with a draw despite Liverpool outshooting them 23-3. Sam Allardyce basically took a page out of Jose Mourinho’s playbook parking the bus Liverpool would have an off day and his team could find a way to get one. In reality he was playing for a 0-0 draw but Mo Salah ended that with a 42nd minute tally. Nothing much changed after half when Liverpool was on the front foot the entire time but it was one of those frustrating days when the quality in the final third wasn’t there. Matters got worse when in the 77th minute Dejan Lovren misplayed a ball which lead to Dominic Calvert-Lewin kind of posting up on Lovren. This is where the debate begins. Lovren did have his hands on him but it really looked like Calvert-Lewin went down on his own, but regardless if it was a penalty or not referee Craig Pawson said it was. Wayne Rooney converted the penalty and Everton won the Champions League oh wait they got a lucky draw at Anfield but if you would have seen the way their loser fans celebrated you would have thought they won the damn Champions League.
No doubt it was a lucky draw but Liverpool got what they deserved, when you don’t put a team away when you have the chance things like this can happen.
So, how do I see this one going? Everton has trouble scoring goals and we know Big Sam will likely try to park the bus in this one.
I think a Liverpool midfield of Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Oxlade-Chamberlain should be able to get the job done in that area of the park. It will be interesting to see how Liverpool will be able to do when it comes to breaking that Everton door down. We all know these are the types of games that the Reds can struggle with.
We all know the lineup will be a crapshoot but Klopp is smart. He respects the derbies and also knows that they need to keep winning to keep their firm grip on a top 4 spot. I think Liverpool will be able to get one by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford which should be enough to paint the town red once again. It will be tough Everton is good at home and the Derby is never easy, but I think they get it done.
Manchester Derby (NBC Saturday 1230PM ET)
Another town divided by red and blue
The other big Derby in England will be taking place in Manchester on Saturday. The stakes here are kind of large. City wins they win the league. They’re going to win the league anyways but winning it against their bitter cross town rivals will be especially sweet for them. Everyone remembers Aguerooooooooooooo when Kun Aguero scored at the death to win the title in 2012 by beating Crystal Palace 3-2 by 2 goals in extra time to win their first title. It looked like it wasn’t going to happen and Manchester United would win another title. Had City lost or even drew United would have won the title. I’m sure you remember the scene that happened at Sunderland. Aguero’s winner came 15 seconds after the final whistle came in the Sunderland/United match. United fans were celebrating thinking they won the league title. Looking back it was a rather comical scene as they were celebrating thinking they won the title as their game was in the final moments City was still down 2-1. The City game was in extra time there was no way that City was going to come back the game was all but over. You could see people on their phones and even some listening to a radio to find out Edin Dzeko had equalized the game in the 92nd minute, but no one thought they could get actually get another in the next two minutes. But sometimes in sports moments happen that will be talked about until eternity and Aguero’s 94th minute winner sent the Ethiad into absolute bedlam. The contrast between the two scenes we’re remarkable. The absolute elation that was happening at City but then the absolute devastation as news started to trickle down that City had down the impossible scoring twice in final 2 minutes to win the title. People were in disbelief as they found out what had happened. Fans in the stands looked confused and sad and the United players on the pitch had the same bewildered look about themselves. The moment itself when Aguero scored was enough in itself to be a historic moment and a moment I will never forget but seeing the United fans and players go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in the final seconds will be a memory that will stick with me forever.
City won the title two years later again after breaking all of us Liverpool fans hearts, but being a little brother getting pushed around from Big Brother for your entire existence isn’t fun so winning the title against United at home will no doubt be a special moment for their fans who have had to watch United win titles while they were fighting not to get relegated. Plus simply beating Jose Mourinho’s to win the title or anytime is always fun for them.
This Derby is always a big deal for them and after what happened Tuesday I would expect them to come out fired up and destroy this United team. You know that Jose will do what Jose does and will park that big ole bus all day and be more than fine with a 0-0 draw, he knows his side is likely to finish second, so for them it’s about winning the FA Cup, but he will be taking this seriously but if he gets a 0-0 draw and puts their celebration on hold for a week and prevent them from celebrating at their expense will be mission accomplished for the self proclaimed special one.
Just like with Liverpool it will be interesting to see who Pep Guardiola rests and who he plays. They want to win this league title but they’ve already won it so as tasty as it would be to do it against United they have something bigger to worry about on Tuesday. There is no doubt they have the confidence to still beat Liverpool and I would think that Liverpool’s uncertainty about their lineup makes them think they have a real excellent shot at advancing despite the real large deficit they are facing.
The reality is they want the Champions League. They want to be more than be the best in England but they want to be one of the best anywhere. Despite the incredible season they have had if they only win the league title and league cup many people including this writer will call their season as a bit of a disappointment. I’m sure many on the inside..players, coaches, and executives will feel the same so coming back against Liverpool is imperative for them.
Because of this, as important as tomorrow is I would expect Pep to play a side the reflects that they will be going all out against Liverpool that they fully expect to win.
City does have the depth to deal with this and still win against United. Hell for Liverpool’s sake I would love to see them win tomorrow in easy fashion and have them celebrate a little too hard so maybe they don’t have much in the tank come Tuesday.
I expect them to win this. Jose will make it tough for them but City has been fine for the most part this year against parked buses. They are so good at moving the ball around and very comfortable in possession that a parked bus isn’t able to do much against them. They will want this too much against them to not do this. Jose will give his team no chance with his setup and not learn from what Livepool did. If I knew how they would lineup I may have an easier time picking this but regardless of what he does with his lineup it will be a strong side.
Manchester City 3-0
Madrid Derby (BEIN Sports/Go90 app Sunday 1015amEST)
This one is about as fierce as they get. It doesn’t have a lot of meaning as far as the standings go but don’t let that fool you this will be as intense as it ever is. In some ways the fact that there isn’t a ton at stake as far as standings go may make this better as neither team has nothing to lose so both teams should go all out. Real Madrid is obviously in the Champions League so it may have an affect with how they lineup knowing they have their second leg against Juventus on Wednesday. They are in good shape, they have a 3-0 lead and Juventus won’t have Paulo Dybala so they don’t really have much of a chance but Zidane will still likely be careful with his roster selection.
Atleti has a bit of an injury crisis in the back with Jose Giminez set to miss out with an injury they are already without Filipe Luis and Sime Vrsalijko. On the other hand Real Madrid is only without Nacho, so they come into this rather healthy.
These two have probably met more than any 2 sides have met during the past 5 years, which is also a big reason the already hated rivalry has become even more hostile. They have met in their normal league games twice every year, but they have also met in Copa Del Rey in 2015, Spanish Super Cup in 2014, Champions League knockout stage in 2015 and 2017, and in the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016. Atleti has had success against Real in domestic play and domestic cup’s, but in the Champions League Real has had their number winning everytime. Overall in the last 19 meetings Atleti has won 6 times, Real has won 5 times, and they’ve drawn 8 times. At times during this it wasn’t unreasonable to say Atleti has had their number, this is a true rivalry meaning that its even and quite possibly my favorite Derby to watch, these games are always of the highest of quality but they also always have an extra level of chipiness which I personally love. Turn the temperature up on a game it is always more fun especially when you’re a neutral. Their first meeting this season ended 0-0. It was early in the season, it was during the time Atleti wasn’t at their best and couldn’t score. Real was the better team that day. Atleti was fortunate to get away with a draw to be fair.
Both teams are playing their best football of the season. I don’t think you would get an argument out of many people that they are two of the top 5 teams in Europe.
In all comps Atleti had won 13 and only lost 2 in all comps. Real has 13 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw in their last 16 games in all comps. With 8 games left in the league Atleti is second with 67 points and Real has 63 points. The battle is for second since Barcelona is running away with this currently leading with 76 points. It would take a complete miracle for them not to win another La Liga crown.
I will be up for this game, it’s the perfect combination of high level and high intensity football between two teams who absolutely hate each other and games between teams that hate each other are always my favorite games.
This will be no different on Sunday. I get Atleti has maybe had the better of them at times and are in terrific form. They have the Europa League to worry about where they are heavy favorites. Real is trying to win an unprecedented third straight Champions League, so like I said this one is more about pride and I can’t stress enough the nothing to lose aspect of this game will make it fun.
Being that the game is at home for Real at the Berenbau doesn’t make that much if a difference. Atelti actually has the edge by winning 3, Real has won 2 and they have drawn 3 times.
My gut tells me this will be another tight hotly contested affair when they play each other a draw is a safe bet, as I mentioned earlier they have drawn in 8 of their last 19 meetings. I think this could be a bit more open than some of their previous affairs. My gut tells me this ends in a
I have written so much about the 3 derbies I am going to just fly through with some picks here.
Bournemouth 3 Cystal Palace 2
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Huddersfield Town 1
Leicester 2 Newcastle 0
Stoke 0 Tottenham 3
Watford 2 Burnley 0
West Brom 0 Swansea 0
Arsenal 3 Southampton 0
Chelsea 3 West Ham 1
Best of the rest
In La Liga this weekend besides the Madrid Derby you have Barcelona playing Leganes. Celta Vigo/Sevilla and Real Betis and Eibar are the two best games to watch outside of the Madrid Derby.
In Germany league leaders Bayern Madrid plays Augsburg on the road with a chance to clinch the league title Augsburg chances of top 4 are dead, so they are likely going to be watching the title celebrated on their own pitch as Bayern will celebrate their 6th straight season. The biggest and best game from the Bundesliga is RB Leipzig who faces off at home against Bayern Leverkusen on Monday. This is a huge one for the top 4 battle as Leipzig is currently sitting in 4th with 46 points and Leverkusen is in 5th with 45 points.
Lastly in Italy. Juventus starts the weekend with a 4 point lead over Napoli. Juve has an easy one with Benevento while Napoli is at home with ChievoVerona. The best game in Italy is probably Roma/Fioretina.
That’s all for me. Enjoy the football it should be a real fun weekend. Stay tuned for recaps I will be on the couch watching all of it.