Manchester derby the showcase; Lionel Messi injury gives Barcelona a choice to make: The Big Weekend Preview

Manchester City head to Old Trafford without the suspended Sergio Aguero while the combustable Joey Barton lines up in his first Glasgow derby as Rangers take on Celtic.

Talking points

How much will Manchester City miss Aguero?

Heading into a Manchester derby without your star striker – scorer of 24 Premier League goals last season – is not a great situation.

The Argentine is the one player in City’s side who genuinely scares rival defences and Manchester United fans will be delighted that he is suspended for Saturday’s derby at Old Trafford.

However, City actually won more points without Aguero in the team last season, when he missed nine games.

City have the back-up players to cope with Aguero’s absence along with a manager who will come up with an effective formation without Aguero in it, but an away trip to a confident United side is about as tough as they come.

An absent Aguero could be the fine margin that decides the outcome.

See also:

• Premier League predictions: Aguero sorely missed for Man City, Chelsea keep winning

• Diego Forlan: Rise of City to challenge United makes Manchester debry won of world’s best

Will Suarez make way for Alcacer?

Lionel Messi could well miss Barcelona’s home match against Alaves on Saturday because of a hamstring injury. It would be wise of Luis Enrique to rest his star man with the Uefa Champions League starting soon.

Barca have just signed Paco Alcacer, the 23-year-old Spanish international, from Valencia and he will likely step in for Messi.

He is more of a central striker and his inclusion would mean Luis Suarez dropping to a deeper wide-right position as he did playing with Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool.

Alcacer will give Barcelona an more traditional striking option and it will be interesting to see how well he fits in initially. Barca need more strength in depth up front for the long season ahead.

Will there be a World Cup hangover?

With two rounds of qualifying games done, players have been busy and there could be some payback for their clubs when they arrive back fatigued. Particularly players who journeyed to South America.

Put it this way, I wouldn’t want the likes of Alexis Sanchez in my fantasy team this week.

• Team Talk podcast: Pogba, Ibrahimovic, David Luiz, Kante, Stones – who were the best summer transfer deals? – Ep 28

Players to watch

Kevin-Prince Boateng (Las Palmas)

The flamboyant German-born Ghanaian is one of those players whose ability is not matched by his achievements. Boateng, 29, has flair, power and unpredictability in abundance and has played all over Europe, yet he has one Serie A title with AC Milan and one League Cup with Tottenham in his trophy cabinet.

He also has played at two World Cups for Ghana, but has only 14 caps, has retired and un-retired and has been sent home from a tournament for disciplinary issues.

It is fair to say he is a bit of an enigma and he now finds himself in the Canary Islands, following in the footsteps of another former Spurs player, Vinny Samways, in playing for Las Palmas. The team have only spent three seasons in Spain’s Primera Liga since 1988, but sit first in table after two games, a 5-1 win over Granada and a 4-2 victory at Valencia.

It looks like they will be an exciting team to watch this season with Boateng at the heart of it.

David Luiz (Chelsea)

Luiz’s return to Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain on the last day of the transfer window was a shock. The Brazilian’s standing in the game is not as high as the transfer fees that have been paid for him.

Whatever his defensive weaknesses are, he is very comfortable on the ball and his signing offers manager Antonio Conte the option of playing the 3-5-2 he was so fond of for Juventus and Italy.

The trip to Swansea City will offer an interesting glimpse at what might be Chelsea’s new formation, with Luiz possibly playing a central sweeper-like role alongside two centre-backs.

All of Chelsea’s current back four could fit into a three-man defence, if Conte went that way, and Luiz would have two teammates to cover for him when he falls out of position.

• Claudio Bravo (Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola spent £13.75m (Dh67m) on the 33-year-old goalkeeper who now has a fair amount of expectations on his shoulders, especially given the fact that former City No 1 Joe Hart has been shipped out of the club to make way.

Bravo will make his debut on a major stage: the Manchester derby.

Games to watch

Schalke v Bayern Munich, Friday, 10.30pm

Bayern’s 6-0 thrashing of Werder Bremen on the opening day suggests they could run away with the Bundesliga, but at Schalke they face a major test.

The home side have spent big in the transfer window, snatching Swiss forward Breel Embolo from under the noses of Manchester United and signing Benjamin Stambouli from PSG. They made a superb deadline-day signing when they loaned Ukraine’s best player, Yevhen Konoplyanka, from Sevilla.

Watch out Bayern!

• Manchester United v Manchester City, 3.30pm, Saturday

The way the season has started, it appears that the two Manchester clubs could be fighting out for the Premier League title come May, so this derby at Old Trafford offers an early chance to get an advantage.

There is little to choose between two sides in form; both have maximum points from their three league games but City have scored and conceded more.

United, however, should be favourites going into this fixture; it is at home and City are without their star man, Sergio Aguero, who is suspended.

Oh, and there is the small matter of Jose Mourinho resuming his rivalry with Pep Guardiola.

• Celtic v Rangers, 3pm, Saturday

The last Glasgow derby in the league took place in the 2011/12 season, before Rangers’ financial difficulties saw them demoted and forced them to make their way up the leagues.

Now they are back and ready to resume one of football’s most passionate rivalries. There will be goals (21 in the last six games) and plenty of cards, too.

Add to this one the meeting between two feisty central midfielders: Celtic’s Scott Brown and Rangers’ Joey Barton, and it could be explosive.

Your weekend ahead: The pick of the games

(All times UAE, all fixtures on BeIN Sport)

Friday

• Bundesliga - Schalke v Bayern Munich, Friday, 10.30pm

• Ligue 1 - PSG v St Etienne, 10.45pm

Saturday

• Scottish Premiership - Celtic v Rangers, 3pm, Saturday

• Primera Liga - Celta Vigo v Atletico, 3pm

• Premier League - Man United v Man City, 3.30pm

• Primera Liga - Real Madrid v Osasuna, 6pm

• Premier League - Arsenal v Southampton 6pm

• Premier League - Stoke v Tottenham, 6pm

• Serie A - Juventus v Sassuolo, 8pm

• Premier League - Liverpool v Leicester, 8.30pm

• Bundesliga - RB Leipizig v Dortmund, 8.30pm

• Primera Liga - Barcelona v Alaves, 10.30pm

• Serie A - Palermo v Napoli, 10.45pm

Sunday

• Serie A - Roma v Sampdoria, 5pm

• Serie A - Milan v Udinese, 5pm

• Premier League - Swansea v Chelsea, 7pm

• Serie A – Pescara v Inter Milan, 10.45pm

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Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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