Because the FA Cup will get going once more, W2W4 highlights the most important storylines within the upcoming video games…
A debut for Virgil van Dijk?
Liverpool have gained their final three matches within the Premier League and are unbeaten in 16 in all competitions, but it surely may need been the Merseyside Derby on Dec. 10 that lastly persuaded the Anfield hierarchy to stump up £75 million to signal Virgil van Dijk.
With solely 13 minutes remaining in that encounter, Dejan Lovren clumsily pursued Dominic Calvert-Lewin within the penalty space, putting a hand on the striker’s again and giving him the chance to break down on to the turf. Wayne Rooney transformed from the spot and the Reds ended the day with a 1-1 draw, 16 factors adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester Metropolis and solely some extent forward of sixth-placed Arsenal. It was a setback that left Jurgen Klopp seething and lots of pointing the finger of blame, as soon as once more, at Lovren.
Having formally accomplished his switch on Jan. 1, Van Dijk may very well be in line to make his debut on Friday evening as Everton return to Anfield for what must be a feisty FA Cup tie. The Netherlands defender final featured for Southampton in a Four-1 house defeat to Leicester on Dec. 13, and he will certainly hope for a a lot simpler run out than that afternoon.
Sam Allardyce could have his staff well-drilled for the event, nonetheless, after claiming he “mastered” Liverpool in December’s draw. Everton at the moment are comfortably above the relegation zone and may afford the distraction of an FA Cup run as Liverpool juggle home cup exertions with the race for the highest 4 and a return to Champions League motion in February.
With such a packed schedule Van Dijk might want to settle shortly, and maybe a gruelling night towards the Reds’ bitter rivals is the proper baptism. Possessing an acute sense of hazard, aerial prowess, and the power to play the ball out of defence, it’s clear what strengths Van Dijk will carry to his new atmosphere. The query is whether or not he can deal with elevated expectations and the burden of turning into the world’s costliest defender. Friday’s sport will go a protracted strategy to offering a solution.
In-form Derby pose a risk to Man United
A house tie towards second-tier opposition initially appeared a beneficial draw for Manchester United, however Derby County’s latest kind suggests this may very well be a harder battle than first anticipated.
It has been a difficult festive interval for Jose Mourinho’s facet; three successive attracts adopted by an encouraging efficiency in a 2-Zero victory over Everton. Derby, however, have gained 11 of their final 16 matches to climb to second within the Championship beneath the shrewd administration of Gary Rowett.
Mourinho will probably be wanting to shake up his choice after complaining a couple of hectic fixture listing, and he may hope Rowett does the identical. If not, an skilled staff that includes former Premier League stalwarts Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone, Joe Ledley and David Nugent, amongst others, might benefit from any slip-ups.
United may even need to control 15-goal ahead Matej Vydra and Outdated Trafford previous boy Tom Lawrence, who made a single look after graduating from the academy. Lawrence left United for Leicester in 2014 earlier than becoming a member of Derby for £7m in the summertime. The Wales worldwide has the expertise to stretch his boyhood membership and the FA Cup loves an underdog story.
Does Pep fancy a quadruple?
May Manchester Metropolis declare a historic quadruple this season?
“That isn’t going to occur,” stated Pep Guardiola in December. “After all not, that’s unreal — what we live is unreal. That isn’t going to occur.”
Guardiola may need been adamant about Metropolis’s possibilities of a four-trophy haul, however he’ll have a look at forthcoming cup ties towards Burnley, Bristol Metropolis and Basel and know that development is predicted. His beginning lineup Saturday ought to reveal whether or not he’s keen to danger his greatest stars in pursuit of the achievement, or whether or not the FA Cup could be sacrificed in favour of the opposite three competitions.
The true headache for Guardiola is who to play in assault. With Gabriel Jesus dominated out for round six weeks with a knee damage, Sergio Aguero is the apparent alternative to guide the road — however would it not be clever to danger the 29-year-old in what may very well be a fatiguing outing towards cussed Burnley? They do not actually have some other choices.
Metropolis immediately look gentle within the centre-forward division, and the result of Saturday’s sport may additional affect their switch plans as they search to assemble a squad that may problem on 4 fronts.
Vardy’s return to Fleetwood
The Jamie Vardy story did not start at Fleetwood, however his single season with the Cod Military was an necessary chapter in his rise. The striker’s 31 objectives within the Convention in 2011-12 prompted Leicester to pay £1m for his providers — a file charge for a non-League participant — as Vardy climbed three divisions in a single day. It has been a outstanding story of success for the 30-year-old ever since, serving to lead Leicester to promotion, survival within the Premier League, after which essentially the most unlikely title triumph in 2016.
It has gone fairly nicely for Fleetwood, too. After Vardy’s objectives helped them into the Soccer League for the primary time, they jumped into League One in 2014 and certified for the playoffs final season. This time period has seen Uwe Rosler’s facet slide again into mid-table, however they’ve the standard to pose issues for Leicester on a day of reflection for Vardy.
After lacking the Huddersfield victory on New Yr’s Day, he’ll hope to get better from a groin damage in time to make an look towards his former membership.
Can Luton trigger an upset?
Newcastle are robust favourites towards Luton City at St James’ Park, however it will be silly to underestimate Nathan Jones’ facet. The Hatters command a cushty lead within the League Two promotion race and have been in free-scoring kind this season, hitting eight objectives towards Yeovil and 7 towards Stevenage and Cambridge.
Manchester Metropolis are the one staff within the prime 4 divisions to handle extra objectives than Luton’s whole of 62, and Newcastle should be ready for a battle towards skilled strikers Danny Hylton and James Collins.
Former Magpies midfielder Rob Lee additionally has an curiosity on this match. His two sons, Olly and Elliot, each play for Luton, with Olly scoring an unbelievable strike from his personal half within the rout of Cambridge. There may be loads of expertise on this attacking Luton staff, and they’ll relish the possibility to check themselves towards Premier League opposition. Newcastle beware.
Matthew Stanger covers European soccer for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Items. Twitter: @MatthewStanger