Manchester City need a reaction against Everton, Napoli’s Milik-sized void: The Big Weekend Preview

Thomas Woods brings you the major talking points and games to watch from this week’s European football action.

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Ahead of the weekend, Thomas Woods addresses some of the biggest talking points from European football.

How will Manchester City react?

Manchester City’s perfect start to the Premier League season was abruptly halted by a classy performance from Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane before the international break.

City’s title rivals likely breathed a collective sigh of relief at the defeat as Pep Guardiola’s side were looking unstoppable. That is the great thing about England’s top flight — perceptions and momentum can change in the space of 90 minutes.

What’s important for Guardiola is how his players react to the setback. Do they return to their previous standard of a win and at least three goals when they face Everton at home?

City’s defending was poor at Tottenham, highlighted most effectively by Dele Alli’s goal.

Everton, who have lost just once this season and lie fifth in the table, will provide a tough test to City. The outcome of this game could set the tone for City for the next month.

More from the Premier League:

• Predictions: Chelsea face tough test from champions, Everton claim draw at Man City

• Fixtures: Chelsea open Week 8 and Liverpool host Manchester United in the big match

• Juan Mata: 'Everything is possible' still for Manchester United this season

What next for Wayne Rooney?

In the space of two weeks, Wayne Rooney has lost his starting spots at Manchester United and England. Even for a player who has accomplished as much as Rooney, it must be a blow to his confidence. Rooney has said he has plenty of faith in his ability to get through this “difficult period”, but it is hardly surprising that he is backing himself.

His form on the pitch is a different matter though.

If manager Jose Mourinho leaves Rooney on the bench on Monday night at Liverpool — the biggest game of United’s season — it will be the clearest indication yet that he is not considered a first-team regular.

The longer Rooney stays out of the team, the more the scrutiny surrounding his United future will intensify. His experience is still invaluable to United, but it is hard to see him still at Old Trafford for the 2017/18 season. A return to boyhood club Everton, a move to America and the MLS or, who knows, even the UAE could be in his future.

Can Napoli cope without Milik?

When Napoli cashed in on Gonzalo Higuain in the summer, reluctantly selling the Argentine who had netted 91 goals in 146 games at the club to Juventus, they picked Polish youngster Arkadiusz Milik as his replacement.

The striker, 22, arrived from Ajax and did not take long to get going. Milik had netted seven in eight in all competitions and looked set to lead Napoli on a Serie A title challenge before suffering a serious knee injury on international duty for Poland. He will miss at least three months.

Napoli are now left wondering how to plug the gap left by their leading striker. Manolo Gabbiadini is the likely player to deputise, with Colombian Duvan Zapata on loan to Udinese for the season.

Gabbiadini, 24, has 14 goals in 48 games for Napoli, and has scored at a rate of a goal every two games for Italy’s Under 21s, while earning six senior caps. Napoli had better hope Gabbiadini avoids any serious injury like Milik otherwise they will have to resort to makeshift replacements. Not an ideal situation for a team with ambitions to challenge for the title.

Pick of the weekend’s matches:

Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin, Friday, 10.30pm

Every Bundesliga season seems to be a story of Dortmund clinging onto Bayern Munich’s coat-tails in a two-horse title race. This season however, six games in, Dortmund are third with surprise package Hertha Berlin one spot ahead and only three points behind Bayern. Hertha’s only dropped points have come in a 3-0 loss at Bayern and a 3-3 draw at Frankfurt where they conceded in the last minute. Led by veteran Bosnian striker Vedad Ibisevic, who has five goals already, they can trouble free-scoring Dortmund.

Chelsea v Leicester City, Saturday, 3.30pm

These two teams have already served up one cracker this season in a six-goal thriller that Chelsea won 4-2 after extra time in the League Cup. Leicester took four points off Chelsea last season, including a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and they could do with a result having struggled to so far to replicate last season’s incredible standards in 2016/17. Will manager Claudio Ranieri take a risk and play with two strikers against Chelsea’s back three? If so it could lead to another goalfest.

Napoli v Roma, Saturday, 5pm

Juventus’s 15-match winning run last season will be scarred in the minds of Napoli, who earned enough points to have been champions if they played in most other leagues around Europe. The Naples side will be worried about the chance of Juventus shooting off into the distance again this season. The champions already have a four-point lead after seven games, which makes Saturday’s encounter against third-placed Roma all the more important.

Real Betis v Real Madrid, Saturday, 10.45pm

Madrid have now drawn four straight games — three in the Primera Liga — and have been hit by injuries. Captain Sergio Ramos is out for a month and they are already missing key midfielders Casemiro and Luka Modric. So far, the poor run hasn’t prove too costly. Barcelona have also slipped up, allowing Madrid a two-point lead on their rivals in the table and are level at the top with rivals Atletico. However, they now face another away trip when a big issue this season has been an ability to retain leads in away games.

Liverpool v Manchester United, Monday, 11pm

One of the classic Premier League rivalries, but one team goes into it in far better shape than the other. Liverpool are only two points off the top of the table and scoring goals for fun. United have won once in four games and must be worried about Liverpool’s on-form attack. They travel to Chelsea next so a result at Anfield would provide a massive boost. A solid defensive display is essential.

Plan your weekend — the best TV games

(All kick-off times in UAE time, games are on BeIN Sports)

Friday

• Bundesliga — Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin, 10.30pm

• Scottish Premiership — Inverness v Rangers, 10.45pm

Saturday

• Premier League: Chelsea v Leicester, 3.30pm

• Serie A: Napoli v Roma, 5pm

• Bundesliga: Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayern Munich, 5.30pm

• Bundesliga: Dortmund v Hertha Berlin, 5.30pm

• Scottish Premiership: Celtic v Motherwell, 6pm

• Premier League: Arsenal v Swansea, 6pm

• Premier League: Manchester City v Everton, 6pm

• Premier League: West Brom v Tottenham, 6pm

• Primera Liga: Barcelona v Deportivo, 6.15pm

• Ligue 1: Nancy v PSG, 7pm

• Primera Liga: Atletico Madrid v Granada, 8.30pm

• Premier League: Crystal Palace v West Ham, 8.30pm

• Primera Liga: Real Betis v Real Madrid, 10.45pm

• Serie A: Juventus v Udinese, 10.45pm

Sunday

• Serie A: Fiorentina v Atlanta, 2.30pm

• Premier League: Middlesbrough v Watford, 4.30pm

• Serie A: Inter Milan v Cagliari, 5pm

• Primera Liga: Athletic Bilbao v Real Sociedad, 6.15pm

• Premier League: Southampton v Burnley, 7pm

• Serie A: Chievo v AC Milan, 10.45pm

Monday

• Premier League: Liverpool v Manchester United, 11pm

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