Saturday’s live matches in the Premier League could be called the Midlands v London but outside those two areas the rest of the world will be focused on Manchester v Merseyside which is a proper rivalry. Wayne Rooney, the devoted Evertonian, could score his record breaking goal for Manchester United – against Liverpool! John Stones will get a tasty reception when he plays for Manchester City away to Everton.
If United beat Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday they would be just two points behind their local rivals. If Chelsea also lose at West Brom the previous day United would be seven points off the pace at the top of the Premier League. Chelsea looked home and hosed before Christmas but losing to Tottenham and quite comfortably has opened up things and now one of six teams could win the Premier League. The big six superpowers are now nine points ahead of Everton in seventh place.
Manchester United and Liverpool are the two most successful teams in the history of English football. Both clubs have huge followings overseas and this is the type of fixture that justifies the TV money. The match will be viewed in about 200 countries so is truly a global event. The fact that the two cities are 35 miles apart and are rivals in music and football adds to the appeal. United can win this fixture and record their tenth win on the bounce in all competitions.
Jose Mourinho had a tough spell at the start of his time with United. The team are now playing in the style of old and the players are behind the manager. Mourinho knows the value of winning trophies and respects the importance of the FA Cup and League Cup. United are the favourites for the Europa League so could win three competitions in his first season in charge. The immediate priority is beating Liverpool on Sunday and United are expected to win three points.
Rooney is equal with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals for the club. One more would make him the top scorer for United and for their fans notching it against Liverpool would be sweet. Rooney is an Everton fan and could return to the club in the current transfer window if he breaks the record. It would be fitting if he scored against Liverpool to set a new goals mark for the club in his last appearance at Old Trafford. But winning the match and closing the gap at the top will suffice for United fans.
Rooney is a born and bred Liverpudlian who grew up supporting Everton and hating the Red ‘Sxxxe’ as they are know by the Blue faction locally and one stray Man United fan who lives just outside Liverpool. It’s a pity the match is not at Anfield so Rooney could score the history-making goal in front of the Kop. We’ll take a Rooney goal and a United win which makes things interesting. It could still be a special season for the Special One. Qualifying for the Champions League is now the minimum target.
Stones is another player who moved from Everton to a Manchester club and he returns to his old stomping ground of Goodison Park on Sunday. He should get a good reception but football fans are fickle. All he’s done is move to a job with more money and better prospects without having to move house. All will be forgiven if he has a stinker but even so City are too good for Everton and they can record an away win. The double on the Manchester teams beating Merseyside opponents pays about 3/1.
The two London clubs can also beat their opponents from the Midlands in the Saturday matches. The fixture between Leicester and Chelsea brings together the Premier League champions from the last two years. Leicester are six points above the relegation places but look safe. There are three worse teams in the division so Leicester will not create unwanted history by being the first team to be relegated from the Premier League in the season after winning the title.
Chelsea had won 13 league matches in a row before the reverse at Tottenham. The rest of the contenders to win the league will be hoping Leicester can do them a favour but this is not the Leicester of last season. Maybe it’s a case of been there done that with the league and they have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. But Leicester look a shadow of last season’s version and Chelsea can beat them on the road. Spurs look the home banker of the programme against West Brom.
But from Bangkok to Beijing and from Bootle to Bolton the big match of the weekend is at Old Trafford where Manchester United can beat Liverpool!