The heart of discussion surrounding this weekend’s activity is likely to focus on its first, and most emotionally-charged clash. The North London Cup between Arsenal and their glorious neighbours from Tottenham has a habit of throwing up some classic encounters, and be sure to expect fear and loathing, passion and desire.
This year, as has often been the case in recent times, the match contains a vibrant streak of African talent – many of whom are likely to be among the game’s chief protagonists. Emmanuel Adebayor was preferred to Jermain Defoe in Tottenham’s recent defeat to City, and whilst the English poacher did bag a hat-trick against Maribor last week, Adebayor’s more physical approach and greater presence could be preferred to Defoe’s finishing finesse.
Swansea travel to the North East this weekend to take on a Newcastle side who have struggled to spark in recent weeks. One player whose morale won’t have dipped through the Magpies’ recent toil is Shola Ameobi, who, at the ripe old age of 31, finally made his international debut, appearing not for England – the nation he represented so impressively at U21 level, but Nigeria.
Ameobi impressed against Venezuela in Miami, a match that the Super Eagles won 3-1, and he will now be looking ahead to the Africa Cup of Nations. Whilst this news will come as a blow to Toon boss Alan Pardew, he will find some solace in the fact that Senegal failed to qualify, meaning his other two key strikers – Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé – will be sticking around.
Finally, one of my favourite narratives this season has been West Bromwich Albion. The Throstles have climbed to an impressive fifth place on the back of two talented African stars. With Youssouf Mulumbu enforcing the midfield, and Peter Odemwingie – the greatest Soviet-born Nigerian striker in history – terrorising opposition defences, the Albion will be looking to cause a few problems for Chelsea as Roberto Di Matteo returns to the Hawthorns this weekend. He will have compatriots Mikel Obi and Victor Moses to contend against in the game.