Right, here we go again.
Clubs are back into the swing of things after the winter break and the early rounds of the domestic competitions in England and Spain have been boxed off.
So teams should have total focus on this weekends games, which have churned up some key ties in title challenges, races for European qualification and the battle to beat the drop. We’ve got a new Milan manager to run the rule over and a battle between two of the most dominant teams from the Premier League era.
You know the drill by now. We’ve got some honourable mentions for you to sample this week too. We certainly spoil you lot!
All kick off times are in Eastern Time. Enjoy the games!
Sunderland vs. Southampton (Saturday, January 18, 7:45AM, NBCSN)
The Black Cats will be confident of another victory after an Adam Johnson-inspired win at Fulham. They’ll come up against a Saints side who have endured plenty of off-field problems this week; it’ll be interesting to see how they might effect their performance in Saturday’s early Premier League game.
Ajax vs. PSV (Sunday, January 19, 10:30 AM, GolTV)
Always a huge game in Holland, and this one has added significance with Ajax locked in a title battle with Vitesse Arnhem atop of the Eredivisie. PSV have had a difficult season and currently find themselves down in seventh place, but their crop of talented young stars should see them pose problems at the Amsterdam Arena.
Worth watching for Lionel Messi alone? The Argentine started for the first time since his return from injury against Getafe in midweek. He bagged another brace, including a stunning second. Levante are a tough nut to crack at home, though and should provide a decent test.
Two sides who have threatened to gatecrash the duopoly of Spanish football in recent years; Atletico are making a real fist of it this season, though. After holding fellow league leaders Barcelona last weekend, a win here is a must to keep pace with La Blaugrana and keep their city rivals Real Madrid at bay.
Now for the top five…
St Etienne vs. LOSC Lille
It’s fourth versus third in Ligue 1 as Lille make the trip to St Etienne.
St-Etienne just missed out on Champions League football last season, and they have started this campaign with plenty of intent looking to keep on the coat tails of both Monaco and PSG. A win here over Les Dogues’ would put them within three points of third place and surely provide major impetus as they look to qualify for Europe’s Premier competition.
To do so, they’ll have to breach the best defence in France. Lille have conceded just five goals on the road all season and ten in total. In truth, they need a win here if they are to keep their slim title ambitions alive. They lost ground to Monaco and PSG last weekend as they suffered a shock defeat at home to Reims.