Prepping this piece, I was very tempted to make this week’s feature a “Top Ten” games to watch, such is the outstanding calibre of the matches on offer this weekend. But for continuities sake, I decided to stick with five.
In short, there is an absolute shed-load of top class action. Somehow I picked five out as our main events (taking into account kick-off times, significance and playing styles), but there are another SIX honorable mentions to savur if you fancy another contest, or just feel like gorging on even more top quality soccer.
We’ve got three from the Premier League, an enormous game in France and a Friday night clash from Germany.
As per usual, all kick off times are Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!:
FC Nurnberg vs. Bayern Munich, Saturday, February 8, 8:30AM, GolTV
The Bavarian derby pits Nurnburg against Bayern Munich. Die Bayern have been ruthless, relentless and downright brilliant so far this campaign. Nurenburg by comparison have really struggled and are in deperate need of points if they are to avoid the drop. But anything can happen in a derby game, can’t it? Perhaps not, but it’ll be well worth a watch.
Los Blancos lost ground on La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid after a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao last weekend. Real will be in confident mood heading into this one after their midweek 3-0 trouncing of Atletico in the Copa Del Rey, but they will have to be at their best to beat Champions League-chasing Villarreal.
Napoli vs. AC Milan, Saturday, February 8, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS Play
Clarence Seedorf pits his wits against Rafael Benitez as his Milan side take on Napoli at the San Siro. This will be the Dutchman’s first major test as boss of the Rossoneri, whilst Napoli will be keen to bounce back from their narrow loss to Roma in midweek. Adel Taarabt looks set to make his debut for Milan.
The Rome derby is always an enormously passionate contest. The supporters typically fashion a spectacular backdrop for the players and tempers have been known to regularly boil over. Both sides have European spots of some stature to target ahead of the season run-in, and a win here could give one team an enormous boost ahead of the run-in.
Benfica vs. Sporting Lisbon, Sunday, February 9, 2:00PM, streaming
After a couple of iffy results, FC Porto look set to relinquish their grip on the Portuguese title. So the door is open for one of Benfica or Sporting Lisbon to be top of the pile come May. They meet this weekend in a game that looks set to have a massive say on exactly which side that’ll be.
La Blaugrana are another team trailing in the wake of Atletico atop of La Liga after dropping points last weekend. A shock 3-2 defeat to Valencia at the Camp Nou ended their remarkable 25 game domestic winning streak at home. Real and Atletico have much more favourable games this weekend, so Barca must win at the Roman Sanchez Pijuan stadium.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Friday, February 7, 2:30PM, GolTV
It was all going so well for Gladbach prior to the German winter break. Of their eight games before Christmas they had won six and drawn two and were right in the mix for the Champions League spots. That was before the break and subsequent back-to-back defeats halted their momentum.
They will be hoping to get back to winning ways on their home patch on Friday night as they take on fellow Champions League chasing Bayer Leverkusen. Borussia will certainly fancy their chances getting back to winning ways; they have won 11 of their 14 home games this season, having only lost once to Bayern Munich. They are in fifth position, just one place and one point behind Schalke 04.
But Leverkusen have been the best of the rest in the Bundesliga this season and will definitely make things difficult for the hosts. Whilst they will have been deflated after agreeing to sell Sidney Sam to Schhalke at the end of the campaign, they look all but certain to finish the season in one of those coveted Champions League spots.
Aside from Sam, they have plenty of attacking talent in Son Heung-Min and Steffan Kiessling. Not to mention a tenacious midfielder duo in Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes.
This one should be an excellent contest to kick-start the weekend.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal
Saturday, February 8, 7:45AM, USA Network
Chelsea’s excellent performance at Manchester City meant that Arsenal stayed top of the Premier League pile going into this weekend’s fixtures. But the Gunners’ championship credentials will be given a thorough examination this weekend as they go to Anfield in Saturday’s early kickoff.
Liverpool will feel as though they missed a big opportunity last weekend. 1-0 up at West Brom they seemed set to extend their lead over fifth place Everton to four points. But a howler from Kolo Toure meant they’d only have a point to show for from their trip to the Black Country.
They need to make amends here, and if they can secure a win, they are certain to put some ground between them and one of their top four rivals, as Tottenham and Everton clash on Sunday.
But Arsenal have shown they are made of stern stuff over the course of this campaign. They have a rock solid defensive duo in Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, and it’ll be interesting to see how they cope with the mercurial Luis Suarez and the prolific Daniel Sturridge.
Gunners’ supporter will harbour happy memories from their recent trips to Anfield, having won three and drawn two of their last five visits. Games between these two are always open, attacking contests.
Swansea City vs. Cardiff City
Saturday, February 8, 12:30pm, NBC
Whilst the South Wales derby is a game big enough in itself to make it onto this list, this particular clash is a whole lot more significant after the recent goings on at both clubs.
Swansea parted company with Michael Laudrup earlier in the week after they’d won just one of their previous ten Premier League games. Gary Monk will take temporary charge for this one, and it’ll be interesting to see how the players respond to the Danes departure. They’ll be roared on by a raucous Liberty Stadium crowd who will be keen to avenge their teams 1-0 defeat to Cardiff earlier in the season.
But Cardiff seem to be getting things together under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The January window allowed the club’s new Norwegian boss to stamp his mark on the club and his signings Wilfried Zaha and Kenwyne Jones made a huge impact as he secured his first Premier League win as boss against Norwich City.
To secure a league double over their arch rivals would give the team from the capital a major boost. But both teams are in dire need of the points give their current predicament in the Premier League table. Cardiff remain in the bottom three and are one point adrift of safety, but Swansea are just three points ahead of them and just two points clear of the drop.
Expect a fervent atmosphere and a game rife with tension. This game could have enormous lasting connotations for both sides.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton
Sunday, February 9, 8:30AM, USA Network
Things don’t seem quite so bad for those of a blue persuasion on Merseyside all of a sudden. After that derby meltdown against Liverpool, a win against Aston Villa—not to mention all of their immediate top four rivals dropping points—made for a pretty perfect response. They travel to Tottenham knowing that a win at White Hart Lane could really thrust them back into the race for one of those Champions League berths.
After a wonderful start under Tim Sherwood, Tottenham have stuttered a little in recent weeks. They were trounced by Manchester City for the second time this season last Wednesday and they were a little lucky to bag a point on the road against an out of form Hull City side.
But they will fancy their chances at home against a Toffees team that have looked a little ropey defensively as of late. Emmanuel Adebayor remains a pertinent attacking threat under Sherwood and he will cause plenty of problems for the visitors.
As for the visitors, they will welcome back key men Gerard Deulofeu and Seamus Coleman this weekend, with the latter in particular being sorely missed in the past few games. They will be hoping Kevin Mirallas can repeat his heroics from this game last season, in which he scored a wonderful solo effort in a 2-2 draw.
AS Monaco vs. Paris Saint Germain
Sunday, February 9, 3:00PM, beIN SPORTS Play
Arguably the game of the weekend comes from Ligue 1 on Sunday, as league leaders PSG travel to second placed Monaco.
The game will see both teams without premier centre-forwards—as Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani will miss out due to injury—but this shouldn’t dampen what is set to be a hugely intriguing contest.
Put simply, if Monaco are to continue harbouring any hopes of winning the Ligue 1 title, a win is an absolute must here. They have been excellent in front of their own supporters so far this season having only lost one game, and a win against the current champions will put Claudio Ranieri’s side within two points of the Ligue 1 summit. Dimitar Berbatov could make his Monaco debut after his January move from Fulham and Monaco supporters will be looking to him to fill the void left by the injured Falcao.
But beating the Parisians would be some achievement. Even without Cavani, they boast a forward line of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Yohan Cabaye could also make his first start for the club after making his debut as a substitute against Bordeaux last weekend.
If PSG can get the job done here, then the Ligue 1 title looks sewn up.
What games will you be watching this weekend? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball