What am I looking for? Narrative. We’re here for stories, not just to see Messi bag four against Eibar, or watch Jack Wilshere chug along in the Premier League. We’re looking for meaning. Derbies, relegation dogfights, clashes – anything with some real relevance. This isn’t good football, it’s football which will mean something to anyone watching and not just the diehards.
1 Manchester United vs Liverpool - Saturday
Old Trafford - 12:30 UTC
Manchester United. Liverpool. There’s not much more I need to say to sell this to you. The prize on offer will be the 2nd place position in the Premier League, a spot with newfound prestige due to Manchester City’s mortgage on the top spot this season. Being the best of the rest this season will mean more than in any other season before, and Liverpool could clamber over United to position themselves as the top dog - apart from City.
Despite the clear quality of both teams (Liverpool take the cake in terms of attacking quality thanks to a red-hot trident of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane), much of the focus will be pushed towards the managers.
Jose Mourinho will hope that his wall of ice-cold authoritarianism will stand against the rampant flame that burns within Jurgen Klopp. It’s your boss against your dad, with both convinced that they ‘do football right’.
Liverpool impressed when they knocked on Manchester City’s door and chased them around the house to the tune of a 4-3 victory to steal any chance of an ‘invincible’ season away from Pep Guardiola’s men. They must do exactly the same against Manchester United. It might not be the best football of the weekend, but the winner takes all here.
2 Rangers vs Celtic - Sunday
Ibrox - 12:00 UTC
The Old Firm is the premier fixture in the Scottish footballing calendar, and for good reason. It’s a storied battle between old foes. It’s the Empire vs the Rebels (with both teams switching sides on occasion) between two fan-bases with embedded roots in Glasgow.
A resurrected Rangers are six points below a Celtic side, who also have a game in hand over the ‘Gers. Can Rangers catch them? It’s a big ask, but they can question Celtic’s dominance with a win at Ibrox on Sunday.
Either way, you’re always in for a fiery spectacle when the Old Firm comes to town.
3 Aston Villa vs Wolverhampton Wanderers - Saturday
Villa Park - 17:30 UTC
A second division scrap between two clubs that have been looking top-tier quality as of late. An old rivalry bursts back into life thanks to the newfound relevance of Wolverhampton and their Jorge Mendes-led revolution.
Wolves play football with a cutthroat counter that usually leaves teams gutted and breathless. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side boasts Champions League quality, and that cannot be ignored. Their style of play works, and it’s why they are top - and why their fans are jubilant.
You can’t count Aston Villa out though. After their promotion bid spent most of 2017 on life-support, Steve Bruce’s side have made a real name for themselves by pressing teams to victory. They can drop the ball, literally, sometimes, but play with a vicious team spirit that seems to carry them from match to match. While Wolves may boast the better stars, you can’t look past some of Villa’s players - James Chester, Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass will look to steady the ship against Diogo Jota, Ruben Neves and others.
With 11 games left, Wolves’ title bid could take a hit with a demoralising loss against Villa, whilst the Villans might not enjoy another game against Wolves for a few seasons if they falter on Saturday. This will be loud.
Who will win? Well - that’s not my place to say, but either way, it looks like Midlands football is on its way back as long as both teams can stay on top.
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