After a few weeks of running this feature, we’re starting to get the hang of picking out some cracking games for your viewing pleasure.
Last weekend, we had 24 goals from our five feature games and this weekend we have another fine selection of contests for you to look forward to. And enjoy these games whilst you can, as a host of the European leagues stall temporarily for their customary winter break.
So we’ve picked the usual five must-watch games and a few honorable mentions to gorge on prior to Christmas. We’ve got a huge clash from English football’s second tier, one of the most iconic derbies in world football and a major final to look forward too.
All kick-offs are Eastern time, enjoy your festive soccer!
Liverpool vs. Cardiff City – Saturday 21 December, 7:45AM, NBCSN
After the goings on at the Cardiff City stadium this week, who know what Bluebirds team will turn up here. Will they rally behind their manager Malky Mackay and put in a strong performance? Or will they crumble in the wake of all this distraction? I suppose it won’t matter much if Luis Suarez is on his game.
Swansea vs Everton – Sunday 22 December, 11AM, NBCSN
Roberto Martinez takes his high-flying Everton side to his old club, Swansea City. The Toffees will be hoping to take advantage of an inconsistent Swansea side and establish themselves as top four contenders.
After failing to defeat against one Madrid side last weekend, Valencia take on the other at the Mestella on Sunday. Los Blancos are starting to put a run together, but a trip to Valencia is always a difficult task.
Paris St-Germain vs. Lille – Sunday 22 December, 3PM, beIN SPORT Play
With AS Monaco facing a very winnable home fixture on Friday evening, PSG could find themselves second in Ligue 1 going into this one. Lille are a good side, and a win here would put them to within one point of the French champions.
Our five feature games are as follows:
QPR vs. Leicester City
Saturday 21 December, 7:15AM, beIN SPORT Play
First place takes on third place in the Championship at Loftus Road, and this one certainly looks as though it will be worth getting up early for.
After securing a respectable 1-1 draw with second place Burnley last weekend, Leicester have a chance to draw level on points with their pace setting opponents. It’s an excellent opportunity for them to move into the automatic playoff spots and put the pressure on Burnley who play later on that day.
But the Foxes will be under no illusions about the difficulty of the task that faces them, as Harry Redknapp’s QPR outfit have been in fine fettle this season, and they still look the team to beat in this years Championship.
The Rs have a mean defensive record and in Charlie Austin, a striker who is bang in form. A win for them and they can put a little bit of daylight between themselves and the teams chasing an automatic promotion spot. Lose and they could well find themselves out of the top two at the end of a tricky looking Christmas period.
Bayern Munich vs. Raja Casablanca
Saturday 21 December, 2:30PM, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go
Pep Guardiola has the chance to win his first trophy in charge of Die Bayern as they take on Raja Casablanca in the FIFA Club World Cup Final. A win for the German and European champions would make it a fifth major trophy in 2013 and they are the overwhelming favorites against the surprise package Moroccan side.
Bayern reached the final with an expectedly comfortable 3-0 victory over Guangzhou Evergrande, and a win in Saturday’s final means they will have won every major championship that they have competed in this season. But the real story of the Club World Cup has been their Moroccan opponents.
Raja Casablanca are currently languishing in midtable in the Moroccan first division, but qualified for this tournament as the host nation’s national champions. They shocked many by reaching the semifinal stage, having triumphed over Auckland City and Al Ahly. Then Ronaldinho’s Atletico Miniero were expected to blitz them in the semifinal. But they pulled off a major shock winning 3-1 over the Copa Libertadores champions, before their players – clearly desperate for a souvenir – proceeded to pull off Ronaldinho’s shirt and boots!
In truth, Bayern should make light work of the Moroccan outfit. But there will be a raucous home crowd in Marrakech which should galavanize their players and make for an intriguing final.
Southampton vs. Tottenham
Sunday 22 December, 8:30AM, NBCSN
Dear oh dear, what a week its been for Spurs. After bigging up their prospects against Liverpool in last weeks must watch selection, they capitulated in front of their own supporters. Andre Villas-Boas has since gone and in his first game as caretaker boss, Tim Sherwood suffered defeat at the lane to West Ham.
Spurs look a shambles at the minute and they need a big performance to help inject some positivity back into the club. Saying that, one of the trickiest places to get a victory these days is away to Southampton.
The Saints will certainly put a ragged Spurs through their paces. After three consecutive losses, Southampton have picked up two points from their last two games against Manchester City and Newcastle. They are just falling short of victories at the moment, but looking at the form Spurs have been in, they must be favourites to notch their first win in six games here.
Spurs fans will demand a reaction after a tough week and expect them to play an attacking open style under Sherwood. Goals look guaranteed here.
Internazionale vs. Milan
Whilst this fixture may not have quite as profound effect on the destination of the Scudetto anymore, the Milan derby remains a fixture not to be missed.
The ‘home’ team for this one are Inter and they are enjoying a solid campaign under new boss Walter Mazzari. Going forward they are starting to look particularly good and Rodrigo Palacio has helped himself to nine goals so far this campaign. He will certainly fancy his chances up against a Rossoneri defence that his looked particularly ropey as of late.
Inter are fifth in the standings and a win over their city rivals would thrust them right back into the reckoning for those Champions League spots. But it might not be a good time to be playing Massimo Allegri’s AC Milan side, as they look to be picking up a bit of form. A respectable 2-2 draw against AS Roma on Monday night should give them some confidence going into this one, but they must tighten up defensively if they are to bag a win over their biggest rivals.
Unfortunately, the San Siro will not be at capacity, that’s because the Internazionale fans stand will be partly closed after discriminatory chants in Naples last weekend.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
Monday 23 December, 3PM, NBCSN
For the first time in weeks, Arsenal could find themselves knocked off the top of the table heading into a Premier League game. Liverpool have a very winnable looking game at home to Cardiff City on Saturday lunchtime and that should see them oust the Gunners as league leaders.
It means Arsene Wenger’s side need a win to go back to the top on Monday night, but in Chelsea they face another side who have their eyes on the Premier League title. This looks a tough one to call, as neither side have looked wholly convincing in recent weeks.
Arsenal were humbled by Napoli and Manchester City in the space of four days last week, and they will have been thankful of a weeks rest ahead of this one. They will be without Jack Wilshere after he picked up a two game ban, but they have more than enough midfield riches to compensate for his absence.
Chelsea, on the other hand, were not able to rest midweek. Far from it, in fact. They were taken to extra-time in the League Cup quarterfinal and eventually lost to Sunderland. Not ideal preparation by any means and Mourinho quipped his team may have to ‘be more boring’ to get results. I’m sure Chelsea supporters would take any kind of victory at the Emirates.
What games will you be watching this weekend? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball