Image Source: enviro warrior (CC BY-SA 2.0)
We're told every summer when the fixtures for the new season are released that they are derived from a computer that picks out random matches for each week, and if you believe that you'll believe that the modern day footballer is not being paid a kings ransom. This past weekend was just further proof - how many club derbies took place? At least four big ones and a few others on the same weekend, seems like quite a coincidence.
Toffee's show fighting spirit
First we will start with Sunday's Merseyside derby, the grandest of rivals came together in Everton and Liverpool for the 233rd time and played out a 0-0 draw. However this was a significant game given how Liverpool could have gone back on top of the Premier League standings had they won. It was a sweet feeling in the Blue half of Liverpool that they were able to have a small say in Liverpool's title fate.
Of course even before a ball was kicked, Marco Silva, the Everton manager had mentioned that Liverpool had celebrated the reverse fixture 96th minute win like they had won the World Cup. This was in reference mostly to how Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had reacted when the whistle went.
This game, though hardly a classic, at least restored a little pride for Everton who were facing one of the best teams this season in the league. At times they were able to control the pace of the game and at the end of the day took 2 points from Liverpool who are now 3.50 to win the league. The derby draw should also calm the waters for Silva, whose job seemed under threat a few weeks back. But after the Liverpool stalemate and the win against Cardiff City, there is a belief once more that Everton's up and down season could well end with a 'silva' lining.
Spurs coming under pressure
The other major derby took place in London when Tottenham and Arsenal clashed at Wembley. Spurs' defeat against Burnley a few days before put the nail firmly in the wood as far as their title hopes were confirmed. After this game ended 1-1 the nail was straight through the coffin - Tottenham are now 10 points behind league leaders Manchester City. But there is now a threat for 3rd place by not one team but three. Manchester United are just three points behind, Arsenal are four and Chelsea are five but they have a game in hand. Latest odds for a top 4 finish have Tottenham as the favourites at 1.30, Chelsea are 1.83, Manchester United can be backed at evens and Arsenal have gone out to 2.88.
New manager, same outcome
Another local derby, three in one weekend in the Premier League alone saw Chelsea fend off Fulham who haven't beaten The Blues in over 10 years. This was Scott Parker's first game in charge and losing at home despite putting up a fight will simply feel like a continuation of what Claudio Ranieri was delivering before. However since Southampton lost too, The Cottagers still remain 10 points from safety. The result was a great one for under fire Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri whose side have now won back to back matches and have a realistic chance to finish in the top four with a solid run in the next two months. Despite the upturn in form the bookies still have Sarri as the favourite to be next sacked and he is as low at 1.57.
Barca's dominance continues
On foreign soil Spain's La Liga was the place to be where Real Madrid and Barcelona met in El Clasico for the second time in just three days. In midweek Barcelona came to the Bernabeu and duly knocked Madrid out of the Copa del Rey, to reach the final, and it was rinse and repeat time when they also won 1-0 to beat them in this league match which was mostly marred by predictable violent conduct. Sergio Ramos somehow escaped being sent off for a 26th time in his career, but it is, one suspects, only around the corner. Barcelona have taken a 7 point lead in the Spanish league race and are heavy odds on of 0.02 (1/50), ouch! If you fancy Atletico Madrid who appear to be the only other choice to win the league in 2nd they are available at a cool 21.00.