If you’re completely fed up of the deadline day hyperbole (hang in there, not long to go now), then you’ll be glad to know there is a heap of soccer to watch this weekend.
Yep that’s right. No rumours, no record deals, no agents, no breaking news. There are some actual soccer matches. How about that?!
It’ll be interesting to see some new signings in action, for sure. But there is plenty to play for as the European leagues begin to come to the boil. This weekend, we’ve got three games from the Premier League and two from La Liga to sample. Both title races are getting extremely tight, and this weekend looks set to be decisive in determining the champions of the respective divisions.
If the games selected don’t tickle your fancy, we’ve included a couple of honourable mentions for good measure.
All kick-offs are Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
QPR vs. Burnley, Saturday, February 1, 7:15AM, beIN SPORTS Play
With Leicester City speeding off into the distance atop of the Championship, the second automatic promotion place looks as though it could be the only one realistically up for grabs as we approach the end of the campaign. So as QPR and Burnley meet in a battle of third against second, the significance of this one needs little explanation.
Just misses out because of a kick-off clash with another selection, but if you’re preference is for Italian football then this one is a must-watch alright. Juventus had their winning streak halted by Lazio last weekend, and Inter will be tough opposition.
Newcastle United vs. Sunderland
Saturday, February 1, 7:45AM, NBCSN
After losing their most influential player, the mood around Newcastle United is a little sombre at the minute. A 0-0 draw in midweek at Norwich City will have only served to compound that, and they really could do with a response against their bitter North-East rivals.
But that’ll be easier said than done. Despite having a pretty dreadful overall record in this fixture for the best part of a decade, Sunderland come into this one after beating the Magpies in the last two Tyne-Wear derbies. Last season, they famously won 3-0 at St James’ Park on their way to securing Premier League survival.
The Black Cats seem to be getting things together under Gus Poyet, too. They look increasingly tough to beat and will be thoroughly buoyed by their League Cup heroics. In Adam Johnson, they also have a player in a seriously good run of form. He scored in the corresponding fixture last season and has bagged five goals in his last three Premier League outings.
The fanatical Geordie support will make things hugely difficult for the visitors, though. Expect a feisty, high-tempo and hugely passionate contest here.
West Brom vs. Liverpool
Sunday, February 2, 8:30AM, NBCSN
You suspect that there might be a few goals in this one.
After Liverpool’s derby rout, they must capitalise with another win here. It’s easy to see that, for going forward they look irresistible at the minute. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are starting to blossom, whilst Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez continue to tear defences to pieces on a scarily consistent basis.
If any of Liverpool’s attacking talent were watching West Brom’s 4-3 defeat at Villa Park earlier this week, then they would have been rubbing their hands together in anticipation
Pepe Mel’s insistence on playing a high defensive line left the Baggies massively exposed to Aston Villa’s pace in behind. But they maintained an attacking threat and have players capable of scoring goals and causing problems for some of the league’s top team. They actually did the double over the Merseyside giants last season.
But Brendan Rodgers will be well aware these are the sorts of games Liverpool need to be winning if they’re to finish in those Champions League spots. This season the Reds look an altogether different animal.
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
The current La Liga leaders show no signs of slowing up. Atletico bounced back from consecutive draws with a wonderful win at Athletic Bilbao in midweek.
With Real Madrid and Barcelona breathing down their necks, they’re going to have to keep on winning, though. And they face a tricky home tie against a dangerous Real Sociedad team next up.
After some rocky form, Sociedad got back to winning ways with a 4-0 thrashing of Elche. In Carlos Vela, Antoine Griezmann and Xabi Prieto they have some wonderful attacking talent capable of posing problems for any side. They are tactically flexible too and it’ll be intriguing to see whether they look to boss possession or play on the break.
Whatever tactics they choose to employ, it’ll be some effort to turn over Atletico at the Calderon in their current form. But it should make an enthralling game nontheless.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Madrid
What seemed likely a hugely difficult challenge might seem a little less daunting for Real Madrid now, as gear up to face Athletic Bilbao this weekend.
The Basque side have already beaten Barcelona at their marvellous new San Mames stadium, but they lost for the first time at their new ground to Atletico in midweek. It is sure to give Real a little bit more confidence before they head there on Sunday evening.
Ancelotti’s team have thrust themselves right back into title contention in the previous few weeks. They have won their last 11 games in a row and are just one point adrift of La Blaugrana and Los Coloncheros who sit level atop of La Liga.
But Bilbao should be confident too. They beat Osasuna 5-1 before falling foul of an excellent Atletico team. They currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League berth and a win here could put some real distance between themselves and the chasing pack.
Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Monday, February 3, 3:00PM, NBCSN
After another scintillating performance in midweek, Manchester City have given themselves a wonderful chance to cruise off into the distance at the top of the Premier League table. Tottenham were battered for the second time this season by Manuel Pellegrini’s team, and they show no signs of slowing down as we edge ever closer to the business end of the Premier League campaign.
City have a perfect home record and it’s difficult to see any team going to the Etihad and preventing a rout, never mind nicking a positive result. But if anyone can eek a draw or a narrow win out, it might be Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team.
A wholly frustrating 0-0 draw against West Ham put a holt to their momentum in midweek, but Chelsea are a team who always seem to excel in what you’d call the “big” games. Their manager will have them well prepared for the task of facing City, and if they can somehow fashion a victory on the road, then it’d thrust them right back into the title reckoning.
A City win and it’s looking increasingly like they are going to be very, very difficult to halt on their way to Premier League glory.
What games will you be watching this weekend? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball