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Is the Manchester Derby a real rivalry?
It’s two tales of one city this weekend as United hosts City in a game that sees sparks fly between supporters, but not so much on the pitch between the players.
United is still the more storied, more celebrated club. But City, with its new riches and more silverware than it can put in the trophy case, is in a different class.
The gap in the table sits at six (both in points between the two and places in the standings as City sits second, United eighth), but realistically, United is so far off City’s pace it looks like it could take seasons before they can truly compete with their neighbours.
While United did manage to win their home derby last season, the Red Devils haven’t won two home matches against City in a row since the 2010-11 season and the Sky Blues have won more Premier League away matches at Old Trafford than they have against any other team. The Theatre of Dreams certainly has a light blue tinge to it these days.
While you can’t argue — well, City fans will anyway because they’re massively in denial — that spending money has been at the centre of City’s success, they’ve had a net spend (money spent on transfers versus players sold) of $1.4 billion in the past 10 years.
Yes, that’s obscene, but it’s actually in second place in the Premier League in that time period. The team above them? United, with a net spend of $1.8 billion.
What you have to give City credit for is its recruitment. For every Kevin De Bruyne it has bought, United has bought two Jadon Sanchos. Changing managers every season, going for big names that sell shirts rather than bringing in the right manager with a philosophy, a style and a plan has hurt them dearly.
So they’ve ended up bringing in a new man with underperforming, big-money stars who it has to either keep around because of the cost, or sell at a massive loss.
Erik ten Hag made progress last year, but still seems to be shaping his squad. He will need last summer’s big buy, striker Rasmus Højlund — who they spent $120 million on — to start producing. He’s yet to score a league goal.
As this week’s FUBO Game of the Week, the Manchester Derby is always an entertaining watch, but with United already five points out of the final Champions spot and the teams above it (Newcastle, Brighton, Aston Villa) all looking like they’re getting stronger, United can’t afford a regression on Sunday.
Can Spurs be trusted?
There’s a saying amongst EPL fans when things go wrong: “That’s so Spursy.”
At present, they sit atop the table as the Premier League’s only undefeated team with a two-point cushion over Manchester City and Arsenal.
While many Spurs supporters are suggesting new manager Ange Postecoglu is revolutionizing the league, there are so many others just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
While they’ve certainly had good fortune so far, this Spurs side has been full value.
They sold Harry Kane and look better for it. They’re more balanced, more resilient and they appear to have spent the Kane money well, especially on rampant midfielder James Maddison.
They kick off this weekend’s action against the textbook definition of mediocrity as Crystal Palace hosts Spurs on Friday. But we’re about to find out how legitimate Spurs’ title charge will be as the schedule starts to get tougher.
After Palace they play Chelsea, then what should be an easier match against Wolves before facing Villa, Manchester City, West Ham and Newcastle — all teams with Champions League aspirations.
The lack of European competition this season will help immensely. Spurs should be a shoe-in to remain in the Top Four this season, but the true test of their title aspirations will be told by the table once we hit Christmas.
Is Aston Villa the ‘best of the rest’?
Aston Villa is bunched together with West Ham and Brighton as those pesky teams outside of the “Big Six” who look to disrupt the traditional heavyweights and plastic superclubs.
Villa thumped West Ham 4-1 last week and its next three league games feature Luton, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth, hardly a murderers row.
Villa sits one point out of the premium top-four spots and, with 22 goals scored, only Newcastle has scored more (23).
Their two losses were definitive ones, against Newcastle and Liverpool — both away, so if they want to stay up at the top, they’re going to have to keep the momentum when the tougher games come.
But the ease with which the beat West Ham tells you not to overlook this group and the top quality job manager Unai Emery is doing with them.
Can Everton survive in the top flight?
It has been a sad week for Everton as its longtime chairman, Bill Kenwright, passed away. A true blue, his heart would be broken at the plight facing them.
News leaked this week that the Toffees could be facing a 12-point deduction for financial misdemeanours, spending more than Financial Fair Play rules allow. They argue it was down to strains during COVID-19, but their spending, compared to revenues, over a three-season period far outstripped every other club abiding by the same rules.
That harsh a deduction would leave them with minus-5 points, and nine points deep in the relegation zone.
Not insurmountable, but not easy.
Relegation for the first time since 1954 would be devastating, especially with their new stadium set to open next season.
They have been warned by three clubs — Leicester, Leeds and Watford, who went down last year — that if Everton escape punishment, they’ll launch a $275-million lawsuit against the club and the Premier League.
This is fascinating because it was one charge from the past three years. Manchester City still faces 115 charges over the past decade without any penalty so far.
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This weekend’s slate
FRIDAY: Crystal Palace v. Tottenham.
SATURDAY: Chelsea v. Brentford; Arsenal v. Sheffield United; Bournemouth v. Burnley; Wolves v. Newcastle.
SUNDAY: West Ham v. Everton; Aston Villa v. Luton; Brighton v. Fulham; Liverpool v. Nottingham Forest; Manchester United v. Manchester City.