LONDON: There is another big weekend of football action across the major leagues, here we look at the main issues to watch out for.
CRUNCH TIME AT BOTH SPANISH GIANTS?
Apparently lightning does not strike twice. Well, try telling that to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Both the Spanish powerhouses lost on Wednesday evening — Barca at lowly Leganes and Real at Sevilla. When one of the arch-rivals loses it is headline news, when both lose it is grounds for a national inquiry. The two will be looking to get back to winning ways today but may not find it all too easy. The Catalan club are at home to Athletic Bilbao and are without a win in two matches. Real, however, have city rivals Atletico Madrid to face. Diego Simeone’s side know a win would take them above Real in the table, and come into the derby on a high thanks to back-to-back wins. For both Barca and Real two consecutive losses usually spell crisis time, the bosses Ernesto Valverde and Julen Lopetegui know defeat is not an option.
It would not be a team managed by Jose Mourinho (at least the older version of the Portuguese) without some sort of drama. At Real Madrid his beef was with Iker Casillas. At Old Trafford the ever-caustic Mourinho has a problem with Paul Pogba. Earlier this week a video of the pair having a very frosty exchange went viral on social media. It only added to the feeling that one will be gone before the end of the next transfer window. Pogba and Mourinho’s relationship has been glacial since the summer. The French World Cup winner was reported to be looking to leave United, he then decided it would be a great idea to criticize Mourinho’s tactics after last week’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves. The Portuguese does not take criticism lightly and having banished Real legend Casillas out of the Bernabeu it would be no surprise to see him do the same to Pogba. United have a tricky clash at West Ham today, how Pogba performs could well determine his future at the club.
DERBY DAY DISASTER FOR ROMA?
If there is one match you do not want when you need a victory and there are rumors that your boss is already looking for your successor, then it is a derby against your most fierce rivals. Unfortunately, that is the scenario facing Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco. The capital club may have beaten Frosinone 4-0 midweek, but the pressure is still very much on, having not won any of their previous five matches. They lie 10th in the Serie A table and defeat against Lazio could well spell the end for Di Francesco. Oh, and as if that was not bad enough, their Rome neighbors have won their past four matches and look like the most likely side to challenge Juventus and Napoli at the top of the table.