TWO interesting derbies down for decision in the Premier League this weekend and perhaps the opportunity to see a rising Irish star test himself against a depleted and Virgil-less Liverpool defence.
There was fanciful if slightly disturbing rumours this week that England U21 boss Lee Carsley might try to tempt Brighton’s Evan Ferguson to do a Rice and Grealish and switch allegiances to our neighbours, based on the flimsy conjecture that his mother is English.
Considering Carsley is being tipped by some to take over from Stephen Kenny as the next Ireland boss, that might be one of the most self-defeating moves he could make.
Gladly, it seems very, very unlikely the talented young Dub has even considered such treachery.
He has more pressing concerns trying to establish himself as a Premier League striker anyway, something he has been doing with some aplomb, scoring in his first two league starts.
Liverpool are next in his crosshairs on Sunday afternoon.
The Seagulls thumped Middlesbrough 5-1 to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup last time out (following a 4-1 league win over Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton, when another Irishman Andrew Moran made his debut).
Jurgen Klopp’s men were forced into a replay in the cup after drawing 2-2 with Wolves.
Sixth-placed Liverpool cannot usurp Tottenham just above them no matter what transpires this weekend, and they are only ahead of Fulham —who have played a game more — on goal difference before the Cottagers faced West London rivals Chelsea last night Similar to their hosts on the south coast, Liverpool have scored and conceded in each of their last six games in all tournaments, but they have accumulated just two top-flight wins away from home all season.
A 2-2 draw at 12/1 is not beyond these two.
Whisper it: Man United might have some title ambitions, especially if they can take three points at home to city rivals City tomorrow.
They are in to 25/1 for the title and that might drop again with a win and if Spurs can put some brakes at home against Arsenal on Sunday.
United are just four points behind City and nine behind the Gunners.
Back-to-back defeats at the beginning of the campaign had some immediately questioning Erik ten Hag, but since then United have won a remarkable 35 points from 15 matches.
Spurs will likely go behind against their rivals but rescue a late draw.
WE’VE never been shy of mentioning our long-term fondness for Napoli in these pages during the past few months.
They face their biggest test on a domestic front tonight when Juventus visit the Gulf of Naples, trailing their hosts by seven points.
Napoli slipped up on their first game back after the World Cup break, losing away to another of the north Italian giants Inter 1-0 at the San Siro but have since bounced back by beating Sampdoria away 2-0.
Napoli are odds-on favourites for this clash, with Juventus priced at 3/1 to get the win away from home.
The game will be the last in the Andrea Agnelli era for Juve, which leaves a lot of success (nine consecutive league titles, as well as reaching the Champions League final twice) but also a massive negative financial legacy — including a loss of over €230m for 2021-22. Agnelli was the fourth member of the family associated with the Fiat car company to run the club, going back to his grandfather a century ago.
THE Hero Cup is currently under way, a European tour event that pits a Britain and Ireland combined golf team against the rest of Europe.
It is seen correctly as a new warm-up event for the Ryder Cup in Italy later this year.
A former stalwart of that competition took umbrage of the Ryder Cup’s official Twitter account posting a video of a wonderful chip by Francesco Molinari with the caption ‘Incredible touch’ on Tuesday, while failing to wish former teammate Sergio Garcia the day before.
“What’s really an ‘incredible touch’ is the Players that helped build the @RyderCupEurope Brand with other players as well. You just can’t bring yourself to say a simple Happy Birthday. @TheSergioGarcia B’day Yesterday. Unfortunately this says so much,” fumed Ian Poulter.
Nice to see Poulter getting so aggrieved on the Spaniard’s behalf, although it is worth pointing out this response might actually have had more to do with someone else whose birthday was actually on Tuesday itself, when the English golfer turned 47.
WE’LL advise Elena Rybakina at 25/1 for the women’s Australian Open as Djokovic seems a lock for the men’s title at a prohibitive price.
A treble for the weekend is a draw between both Liverpool and Brighton (which should see a few goals), Spurs and Arsenal and United to defeat City for a 64/1 treble.