The world is sadly now a different place since the last matches in the Premier League. Football can be a positive influence despite the horrors and domestic football returns on Saturday when Watford host Manchester United in the first televised match of the weekend. Watford have won, drawn and lost 2 of 6 home fixtures while United have lost two matches on the road and a draw is the most likely outcome.
Raheem Sterling plays against Liverpool for Manchester City for the first time since swapping clubs. Viewers watching the tea time live fixture can expect some vitriol from Liverpool fans who never forgive. Some of the taunts could be racist which is unforgiveable. Football is the only profession in which individuals are vilified for selling their services for the most money. I wonder how many fans would turn down a down a move in job that pays twice their current wages and the same principle should apply with professional footballers.
The only TV match on Sunday is the London derby between Tottenham and West Ham. This fixture brings together two sides with ambitions to take up the Champions League qualifying place that looks like being vacated by Chelsea. Spurs are playing well enough to make the top four but winning the title this season may be beyond them. West Ham will be playing at the Olympic Stadium from the start of next season so a place in Europe would be a perfect way to start their life at the iconic venue.
I don’t think many people will be changing their plans to watch the Monday night match between Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Both sides are scoring at an average of just over one goal per match so we can expect a goal-fest blockbuster! A more likely scenario is a low scoring encounter and the bets to be on are both teams not to score and under three goals. The best has certainly not been saved for last this weekend but no doubt the Monday fixture will be the most entertaining of the TV schedule.
Manchester United are now just two points off the pace but have scored the fewest goals of the sides currently in the top seven. However, they have the best defensive record in the league numerically so Louis Van Gaal’s focus is obvious. Playing with flair is part of the tradition of the most famous club in the world. The trade-off between winning matches and entertaining is an interesting dilemma but most fans want success more than fantasy football.
Watford are establishing themselves in mid-table safety. They have won four of 12 matches to date and drawn and lost the same number. That’s a decent return for a newly promoted side in a season in which they have scored just 11 goals but only conceded one more. A solid, well organised defence can achieve a great deal and the nightmare scenario of an immediate return to the Championship looks unlikely.
The meeting between Manchester City and Liverpool is one of those clashes that matches sides from the two great north-west cities. Rivalries go beyond football but are also based on music, industry and prosperity. No doubt Sterling will bear the brunt of the hostility and from a fair minded point of view it would be great if he scored a hat-trick. City have won 5 of 6 home matches this season to date and with or without goals from Sterling can enhance that record. Liverpool have failed to win on 4 of 6 road trips this season.
The starting England side that played against France when the score didn’t matter included three players from Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino developed young talent at Southampton and is becoming a great manager who one day could manage Argentina. His English is not quite good enough to take over from Roy Hodgson and anyway Jose Mourinho is the next England manager. In Deli Alli he will have a great prospect to nurture.
Tottenham at White Hart Lane should be too strong for the Hammers. They are unbeaten in six home fixtures, scoring 10 goals and conceding four. Harry Kane is scoring and all is well in the world for Spurs fans. West Ham have the second best away record in the league so a home win is not a formality. However, Tottenham as a side and some of their individuals are firing and can secure three points. That just leaves the Monday match in which Sunderland will beat Palace 5-4 with the winning goal in the fifth minute of injury time!