All of European football’s top five leagues will be back again this weekend following a variety of different winter breaks.
In Germany, they will play their first fixtures since the festive hiatus and we appear set for one of the most fascinating title races in years in 2019. The surprise leaders and the longstanding champions are set to juke it out, with both facing challenging away games this weekend.
Big-name clashes from the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A complete this selection.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich
Before the Bundesliga shut down for Christmas there were some small signs that Bayern were beginning to get their act together under Nico Kovac.
They’ve won their last five league matches in succession and in the week preceding the break they were able to chop down the deficit to Borussia Dortmund to just six points. If they were able to win at Hoffenheim on Friday night, then that advantage would halve and apply pressure to their rivals on Sunday.
Hoffenheim represent challenging opposition. While they haven’t lost in their last 10 games, Julian Nagelsmann’s team are on a remarkable run of draws, with all six of their last Bundesliga matches finishing deadlocked. On Friday, they will want to give their season a kickstart with a big win over the champions.
Hoffenheim also need to pick up their form if they’re to qualify for next season’s Champions League, as they trail RB Leipzig, who sit in fourth, by six points at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Real Madrid vs. Sevilla
Both Madrid and Sevilla lost their respective Copa del Rey matches in midweek but still qualified for the quarter-finals on aggregate. Both will be out to bounce back when they meet at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Los Blancos continue to be erratic and it’s clear they aren’t functioning to full effect under Solari. While they earned a 2-1 win over Real Betis in La Liga last weekend, they were dominanted for long spells and fortunate to escape from the Andalusian club with anything.
While hopes of the title are long gone—they trail Barcelona by 10 points—are still in a battle to secure a top-four spot. Madrid are fourth and level on points with Sevilla in third going into this game, with Alaves only a point behind the pair.
Sevilla have let their early-season momentum slip in recent weeks too, with no win in three in the Spanish top flight. However, manager Pablo Machin will be reminding his players that they were totally dominant when the two sides met earlier in the season, with Madrid hammered 3-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Arsenal vs. Chelsea
The buzz that was present around the Emirates Stadium in the early weeks of Unai Emery’s tenure has seeped away at Arsenal and the pressure feels on as they gear up to face Chelsea on Saturday.
Arsenal were a long way short of their best in the 1-0 loss to West Ham United, as they lacked organisation in defence and inspiration in the final third. A run of one win in five games has allowed Manchester United to close the gap to the Gunners in fifth and suddenly their chances of a top-four finish feel extremely slim.
There are issues off the field too. Aaron Ramsey continues to be linked with a move to Juventus, Mesut Ozil wasn’t involved in the squad for West Ham despite being the club’s highest-paid player and there’s been speculation aplenty about Sven Mislintat, the Gunners’ head of recruitment, possibly moving on too.
Meanwhile, Chelsea continue to chug along under Maurizio Sarri and while there are clearly holes in the squad, in Eden Hazard they possess arguably the best footballer in the top flight. If he is on it come Saturday, it’ll be a long afternoon for the Arsenal defense.
RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund face a testing reintroduction to Bundesliga football this weekend when they visit RB Leipzig.
BVB supporters would have had mixed feelings going into the break. On the one hand their team has been remarkable for the majority of the 2018-19 campaign and the win over Borussia Monchengladbach felt crucial. However, they slipped up for the first time domestically in the game before that against Fortuna Dusseldorf.
That would have given Bayern some hope that they can rein in Lucien Favre’s team. The upcoming fixture feels like a tricky game too, as Leipzig are a dangerous team with some devastating attacking players. Timo Werner, in particular, has found his goalscoring swagger after a tough previous term.
A win here for Dortmund would be a dagger to the heart of those teams chasing them down, as there will be some expecting BVB to slip up. As we pass the halfway point, this spell of fixtures will tell us a lot about how far this Dortmund team can go in the chase for an unlikely title.
Napoli vs. Lazio
Sunday, January 20, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+ (free trial)
With Juventus surging clear at the top of the table the most exciting aspect of Serie A in the coming months is set to be the battle for Champions League spots. It’s one Lazio are poised to be immersed in.
They may not have been as swashbuckling as the previous season so far, but Simone Inzaghi’s team are sitting in fourth spot ahead of their visit to the San Paolo on Sunday. Still, in AC Milan, Roma and Sampdoria, there are three teams within three points of the capital club.
It makes this match against Napoli one of major significance. For Carlo Ancelotti’s team it will also be fascinating to see how the rest of the campaign plays out; they won’t challenge Juventus for top spot, they’re secure in second and are out of the Champions League too. Keeping motivation up may be a challenge for the Italian coach as a result.
These two teams have been involved in some absorbing contests in recent years, although Napoli have had the edge in the last four Serie A showdowns. Lazio are the underdogs, but after the winter break they will be hopeful of catching the Neapolitans cold.