After a festive period that sees some divisions wind down and other leagues ramp things up, domestic soccer gets back to the regular grind again this weekend.
The FA Cup will take center stage in England and there are a couple of standout clashes to enjoy this weekend from that iconic competition. In addition, there are two exciting games from Spain, including a new era beginning for one of the division’s giants. The other match will see two of Italian football’s grandest outfits lock horns.
All kickoffs are in Eastern Time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Exeter City vs. Liverpool
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp takes his injury ravaged squad to the south west this Friday, as the FA Cup third round gets underway at Exeter City’s St James’ Park.
Although there’s no denying the Premier League side are in possession of the superior quality, this will be a test for Liverpool. Indeed, having recalled the likes of Tiago Ilori and Sheyi Ojo from their respective loan spells, it seems as though Klopp may well turn to some young talent in the cup competitions, which could serve as some incentive to Exeter.
For the minnows, it’s the biggest game in their recent history. This term Paul Tisdale’s side have been seeking to try and steer clear of the relegation zone in the fourth tier and coming into this weekend’s game they’re occupying 16th place in the standings. You can bet this tight venue will be rocking by the time kickoff comes around on Friday, though.
Physically, Liverpool have been pushed to the limit by Klopp’s demand for high intensity football, the congested calendar and the subsequent injuries; the Reds could head to Exeter without a recognized, fit centre-back. So make no mistake, this is likely to be a difficult challenge for the Anfield outfit.
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo la Coruna
Saturday, January 9, 2:30PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Espańol and fuboTV
After Rafa Benitez was given the boot earlier this week, Zinedine Zidane begins his tenure at the helm of Real Madrid against an impressive Deportivo la Coruna outfit.
Benitez may not have been popular at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he was doing a quietly effective job. Despite his reputation as a pragmatist, no team in Spain’s top flight have scored more goals than Los Blancos and in the last three games on home soil, there have been a staggering 24 goals scored.
Deportivo are certainly no mugs, though, and they’ll take encouragement from Real Sociedad’s performance at the Bernabeu recently, when they were unfortunate not to take something from the game. In Lucas Perez, they have a red-hot forward—he’s scored 12 goals already this campaign—and they’re well worth their seventh place spot in the table.
The atmosphere at the Bernabeu has been tense in recent weeks, but the departure of Benitez and replacement with a club icon will surely lift spirits in the stadium. If Real are not at their best, Deportivo, as they did at the Camp Nou earlier this season in a 2-2 draw, have shown they have enough quality to capitalize.
Roma vs. Milan
Saturday, January 9, 2:45PM (live); Shown on tape delay at 4:30pm on beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Espańol and fuboTV
Roma and Milan will face off in the standout fixture of the Serie A weekend, as both sides seek to keep in touch with the title-challengers.
Despite possessing one of the finest squads in the division, Roma have fallen out of touch at the top as of late. Rudi Garcia’s team have struggled to turn draws into wins in their most recent matches and with Inter Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina and Juventus all enjoying strong runs of form, the Giallorossi have slipped back down into fifth position.
Milan are just five points back on the capital club, but manager Sinisa Mihajlovic is under big pressure to perform after a hugely disappointing home defeat to Bologna in midweek. Rumours are gathering pace that despite doing a steady job with the Rossoneri so far, another unconvincing display at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend could see him sacked.
Garcia is also under scrutiny and in what is a wide open Serie A season, many feel as though he is underperforming with the squad at his disposal. Three points in this one are key if he’s to win fans back onside, but that could well spell the end for his opposite number on Saturday.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City
Two of the Premier League’s most impressive sides have been drawn together in what’s likely to be the tie of the weekend in the FA Cup, as Tottenham Hotspur host high-flying Leicester City.
For the hosts, winning a trophy should be a big priority this season. Of course, Spurs fans will be desperate to see their exciting, attacking young team qualify for the Champions League at the end of the campaign, but lifting silverware is as good as it gets. Instilling a winning mentality into the likes of Dele Ali, Harry Kane and Eric Dier early in their careers would be a massive bonus too.
Leicester may not have Jamie Vardy for this one due to his minor surgery, but it’s a chance for Claudio Ranieri’s side to show they have other strings to their bow. Despite failing to score in their last three Premier League games, the Foxes always preserve a considerable threat on the counter and Spurs will have to sharp to stem any fast breaks.
Expect a high-intensity and highly-skilled 90 minutes at White Hart Lane, between two teams who have really caught the imagination in the Premier League this season.
Celta Vigo vs. Atletico Madrid
Sunday, January 10, 4:30PM, beIN SPORTS en Espańol and fuboTV
Surprise challengers for a Champions League spot, Celta Vigo, will host La Liga’s surprise leaders, Atletico Madrid, in what’s set to be the standout contest in the Spanish top flight this weekend.
Celta have lost their way a little as of late, having lost their last two games in a row and fallen back into fifth spot. But this is a team which has been massively impressive this season with their free-flowing attacking football. Having toppled Barcelona 4-1 at Balaidos earlier on in the campaign, Celta have previously proven they can rise to the challenge against the top sides.
Atletico are beginning to find their groove as they approach this game. Remarkably, 18 games into the season, they have only conceded a meagre eight goals and feasibly, they could have dropped points in each of their last two La Liga matches. But Diego Simeone’s team have shown a knack for winning games, netting late goals to get over the line.
This match will be a classic case of the attacking flair of Celta up against the defensive robustness of Atletico. If the Rojiblancos do want to be considered as genuine challengers for this season’s La Liga crown, then these are the kinds of matches in which they will need to emerge with three points, especially with Barcelona and Real Madrid breathing down their neck.