Say what you like about international football, it doesn’t quite match the blood and thunder of a good old-fashioned derby.
Fierce rivals squaring up with bragging rights at stake, living rooms divided and the mood in the office on Monday morning determined by what happens over 90 minutes.
Well, times that by five as this weekend Liverpool meet Everton, Rangers face Celtic, the two Milan giants go head to head before Tottenham host West ham and Crystal Palace take on Brighton.
Here’s the lowdown on the weekend grudge matches.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool head into their clash with Everton on the back of a drubbing
Everton vs Liverpool
Liverpool and Everton are well placed to argue that the international break couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The high-flying Toffees were denied the chance to quickly build on the momentum of four straight wins to kick off the campaign while the Reds have had a fortnight to stew on that hammering at the hands of Aston Villa, when they shipped SEVEN goals.
Jurgen Klopp was left shell-socked that night at Villa Park but something that hasn’t surprised him is the emergence of Everton as a challenger.
Klopp had special praise for Carlo Ancelotti – who will be in the opposite dugout – but Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the one he’ll have to keep an eye on.
Everton are flying high at the top of the table after winning all four of their games
He can’t stop scoring and his England goal against Wales took him to double figures for the campaign already. Virgil van Dijk – you have been warned.
These are testing times on Merseyside with the severe lockdown restrictions in place and while for 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon there will be something else to focus on, only half the city might be smiling by the end of it.
Celtic vs Rangers
The bad news for the neutrals north and south of the border is that the Glasgow and Merseyside derbies take place at the same time. Watching them on the telly back to back really would have made for a super Saturday.
There’s little between the fierce Scottish rivals as far as the bookies are concerned (and they’re not often wrong) with Rangers one point, and one goal, better off after unbeaten starts for both, although Celtic do have a game in hand.
This season is all about 10 in a row – whether Celtic clinch it or Rangers stop them – and the first derby of the season could provide more than a big pointer.
The first Old Firm derby of the season takes place on Saturday afternoon
Steven Gerrard’s Gers looked like giving it a real go in the first half of last season before falling away after Christmas and they’ve started well this term. That’s despite Alfredo Morelos not quite finding his shooting boots. Likewise, Hoops boss Neil Lennon’s main man up top, Odsonne Edouard, has a few questions to answer.
If you don’t support Rangers or Celtic and have no ties to Merseyside, the best thing you can do it set-up a couple of screens at lunchtime. And enjoy.
Inter Milan vs AC Milan
The two former powerhouses are the most successful and historic clubs in the Italian game but by the end of this season it will be 10 years since the Scudetto could call the San Siro home.
Inter won five titles on the bounce before Milan took the honours in 2011 but they’ve been bridesmaids to that Old Lady Juventus ever since.
Nevertheless, all eyes will be on that famous stadium on Saturday evening.
There will be no fans inside due to the pandemic and coronavirus has also robbed Inter boss Antonio Conte of six players after they tested positive. Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar, Radja Nainggolan, Roberto Gagliardini, Ionut Andrei Radu and Ashley Young look like missing out. Milan have lost a couple.
Inter Milan and AC Milan will go head-to-head this weekend in the Derby della Madonnina
The good news for Conte is he does have Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku to call on and the former Manchester United man is on a roll with six goals in as many games for club and country this term.
At the opposite end of the pitch from the in-form Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is available for Milan and he’ll relish the opportunity to put one over one of his fomer clubs.
Both teams go into this one unbeaten after three matches but it’s Milan sitting pretty with the 100 per cent record and no defeats since before lockdown back in March.
Crystal Palace vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Okay, we know it’s not a ‘derby‘ when there’s so many miles (45 if you Google it) between them but if it’s good enough for Barcelona and Real Madrid it’s good enough for Palace and Brighton. We’ll probably stop short of calling this one the M23 Clasico though.
As far as intense rivalries go, this one really kicked off in the 1970s with Brighton boss Alan Mullery chucking coins at the Palace support before v-signs and cups of coffee were thrown. You can read about it here.
Crystal Palace, with Wilfied Zaha (pictured), and Brighton will go head-to-head at Selhurst Park
The teams were in the old Third Division back then and since the Seagulls followed the Eagles up to the top flight a few seasons ago, this is the first fixture the fans look for.
Palace have won two of their four games this season with Brighton managing just the one but a win in the M23 Clasico (sorry) could kickstart a campaign.
Tottenham vs West Ham
Gareth Bale has been all smiles since leaving Real Madrid for a return to Tottenham and he’s close to making his second debut for the team he left in 2013.
One of the best players on the planet back in the Premier League is a good thing but it could be terrible timing for David Moyes.
Tottenham may look to hand Gareth Bale his second Spurs debut against West Ham United
The Hammers manager watched his side (from a distance, due to coronavirus) thump Wolves 4-0 and Leicester 3-0 in their two league games before the break but he surely can’t expect to run riot against a Tottenham side who crushed Man United 6-1 last time out and could be buoyed by Bale.
The teams have met five times in the last two seasons – there was a League Cup clash – and Spurs have won four of them. The Hammers start as underdogs but gritty Scot Moyes wouldn’t want it any other way.
As for his counterpart Jose Mourinho, this is the first of five games in 15 days for his side and he will already be thinking about shufffling his pack.