Liverpool bid to go further ahead of City

When it comes to stand-out fixtures, January has one mega clash at the top of the table and a few six-pointers involving teams close to the foot of it.

It may seem ridiculous to dub a January fixture as a title decider given we are only halfway through the season. But that’s the way it is when Liverpool travel to Manchester City on the 3rd of the month. It’s a Thursday and the kick-off will be at 8pm which means 3am on Friday in Thailand – a deterrent to many viewers.

City are no longer in pursuit of the unofficial Invincibles crown after their defeats at the hands of Chelsea, Place and Leicester last month. But Liverpool remain unbeaten after overcoming a potentially difficult test at home to one-time Invincibles, Arsenal.

Arsenal did wonderfully well to go the whole 2003-4 season unbeaten, but it’s a feat I can’t see being matched any time soon. But, then, I never thought I would see Leicester win the Premiership, so perhaps it’s best to adopt a “never say never” approach.

It’s tempting to predict a draw in this City/Liverpool clash and I doubt if the bookies will be offering long odds on one. When they met at Anfield it was 0-0 and I fancy a repeat of that scoreline. City need to peg Liverpool back and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do so.

A win for Liverpool would not completely sink City’s title hopes. But, they would struggle to recover.

The weekend after this game sees the staging of the third round of the FA Cup when the big boys enter the competition. The most competitive tie of the round pitches Wolves against Liverpool on Monday the 7th. Again, it is at time that won’t help potential viewers in Thailand – 7.45pm (2.45am on the Tuesday in Thailand).

I expect Liverpool to be too strong for the Midlanders, but if the Reds are still recovering from their game at Manchester City just a few days earlier that could even things up a bit.

The only other all-Premier League clash is a south coast derby involving Bournemouth and Brighton. I think the former will win the battle of the seaside resorts but I expect it to be close.

After the diversion of the cup it will be back to league action on the 12th.

Two fixtures that day are worthy of note in the context of the relegation fight. Cardiff will host Huddersfield and Fulham will visit Burnley.

Given Huddersfield’s struggles in front of goal, I think Cardiff will edge this one. I don’t know why Burnley are relatively low in the table, but I expect them to have too much for Fulham who (victory over Huddersfield apart) look more doomed as each winless match passes.

The following day Spurs will host Manchester United. It’s usually an attractive fixture and it may have a bearing on who will finish in the top four. Though I think that horse has bolted for United.

The decision to ditch Jose Mourinho seems to have given the team a short-term lift. But I believe the Ole effect will only last so long. The United board gave Solskjaer a good run of fixtures to get going – Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Newcastle – before facing Spurs. Spurs will be the test of OGS and I expect the London club to battle back after their surprise defeat at home by Wolves.

On the Monday night Manchester City will face Wolves. Their meeting earlier in the season ended in a draw. Can’t see that happening this time and I expect City to take all three points. Those wishing Liverpool well will, of course, hope I’m proved wrong.

At the time of writing the season is halfway through. So maybe it’s time to consider my efforts in the Fantasy Football League. In a nutshell, were there relegation, I would be in a dogfight.

I’m a member of three leagues. I’m seventh out of eight in one; 13th out of 21 in another; 32nd out of 37 in the other. Pretty rubbish, huh?

Topping any of the leagues is way out of reach already so I will, to coin an old phrase, just concentrate on the cup. In the 37-team league the organizer has concocted a way of organising a cup competition. I’m through to the last 16 but I suspect that may be the end of my challenge.

But, you never know …

Footnote: In fantasy leagues am I the only “manager” who gets infuriated when one of your players gets booked (and, thereby, loses points) when they take their shirt off after scoring? I have Everton’s Richarlison in my team. When I saw him take his shirt off after scoring his goal (Everton’s fifth) against Burnley to earn a yellow card I thought: What a waste. The winner in a tight match, maybe is the time for an exuberant celebration. Maybe!

But I fail to see that taking off a shirt deserves the same punishment as, say, a crunching tackle. That said, I don’t especially want to see blokes taking their shirts off all the time. Old fashioned, or what?


By Dave Buckley