Chelsea rumours, Milan v Juve and 5 more things to look out for in week without the Premier League
After a manic fortnight of football over the festive period, there is plenty more to come, BUT in terms of the Premier League there will not be a match for seven whole days. Imagine that. So here we’ve listed seven things to look out for during that week, including build-up to a title showdown few believed possible a couple of months ago.
Raheem Sterling of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City
Bar the Audi Cup, Tottenham have not lifted a piece of silverware since 2008, and that is why Jose Mourinho is dubbing their EFL Cup semi-final against Brentford on Tuesday night as the biggest since he took charge of Spurs back in November 2019.
Having won four League Cups, with Brian Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson the only other managers to achieve that tally, Mourinho is a big fan of the competition, and it is one in which he has never lost a semi-final or final.
Firm favourites against Brentford, should they progress Spurs would be the underdogs against either Manchester City or Manchester United, but under Mourinho’s watch there will be a hope this 13-year wait for a trophy is ended come April.
Mourinho: EFL Cup semi-final 'not about me'
“Is this my biggest game since arriving at Spurs? Yes, I think so,” Mourinho said. “In the perspective of the club chasing silverware for many years, I would say so.
He added, modestly: “It is not about me. It is not about me four or five times, or me winning at three clubs, it’s not about me at all. It is about my club, it is about the players who want trophies, it is about fans who want trophies.”
The second EFL Cup semi-final sees Manchester United host Manchester City at Old Trafford on Wednesday, bringing back that familiar Premier League feel during its week off.
This one, like Spurs v Brentford, is a straight shootout given the League Cup scrapped two-legged semis for this season, and so we’ll know the two finalists come 10pm or so on Wednesday evening.
How exactly United and City line up will be intriguing, but with a place in April’s final on the line and the City of Manchester Bragging Rights™ up for grabs, expect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola to name strong XIs – especially with the FA Cup third round this weekend.
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________ linked with Chelsea job
One win, one draw and four defeats in their last six Premier League games has put Frank Lampard’s future in question at Chelsea.
It has therefore resulted in a host of names being linked with the managerial job should owner Roman Abramovich dismiss the ex-Chelsea player, especially as the Russian has sacked other managers for less in the past.
Thomas Tuchel and Max Allegri are among the available managers who could catch Abramovich’s eye, while perhaps more sensationally another ex-Chelsea player, Andriy Shevchenko, is reportedly being lined up to replace Lampard.
That is according to Le10 Sport, and while Lampard will hope to ride out this storm, he will know that he absolutely cannot lose at home to Morecambe in the FA Cup on Sunday, while anything but victory in their next Premier League match at Fulham on Friday, January 15, could see Abramovich finalise his list of candidates and send out a few feelers.
Liverpool v Man Utd talk ramped up
Manchester United will be in midweek Premier League action at Burnley on January 12, but for Liverpool their next league match is not until January 17. At Anfield. Against United.
The anticipation is already building, mainly because of United’s resurgence of late which has lifted them from 15th to second, while the excitement among United fans and ex-players (Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville mainly) has placed an even greater importance on this fixture.
Champions Liverpool remain unbeaten at home in the league since April 2017, and there is no opponent out there they would rather avoid relinquishing this remarkable run to than United.
It would be a huge statement of intent for United to go to Anfield and win. They know that. Liverpool know that. Most football fans know that. And that’s why a 0-0 is most likely. Three of their last eight meetings have ended goalless, so you never know, a goal-fest could be inbound, though the last time this fixture produced more than four goals was 2010.
AC Milan v Juventus
The Serie A leaders host the struggling champions.
Milan have been on a rollercoaster ride since their last title win in 2011, while Juve have won every Serie A title since. The two sides now go head to head on Wednesday night with Milan looking to open up a 13-point gap over Juve, who find themselves down in fifth after six draws and one defeat from their opening 14 league games.
Pirlo - Juventus-Fiorentina - Serie A 2020/2021 - Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
It means Andrea Pirlo is very much a man under pressure. No one wants to be the manager who lets Juve’s crown slip, and now Milan will know they can heap more pressure on the man who helped the Rossoneri win two Champions League trophies during his time there as a player.
More Covid chaos?
There have been a handful of Premier League games called off due to Covid-19, more in the EFL too, and while the FA Cup could see a few postponements this weekend it remains unclear how big of an impact the current coronavirus crisis in the UK will have on the football calendar.
Professional sport is persisting amid the heightened restrictions, but it is far from immune from the effects of Covid-19, meaning more cancellations are likely unless clubs can avoid outbreaks within their respective camps.
There is also the small matter of working out when to rearrange the matches already postponed. Not easy during a congested season which is scheduled to end just weeks before the Euros starts.
The FA Cup ‘proper’
The weekend brings with it the FA Cup third round “proper”, where Premier League and Championship teams enter the fold and normally look to avoid a massive upset.
Getting dumped out of the cup this season would mean more time off, which may not upset too many managers, and so you may see some confused line-ups as Premier League managers seek to “respect the competition and their opponent” but ultimately rest those crucial to their league campaign.