Barcelona’s final day La Liga decider with Atletico Madrid was one of the highlights of 2014 and the two sides will meet again this weekend for the first time since that encapsulating afternoon.
In addition to that enticing clash, we’ve got two fascinating matches from Italy to savor and a look at both Manchester clubs in the Premier League as they gear up for tricky away matches.
All kickoff times are in Eastern time, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Everton vs. Manchester City
Saturday, January 10, 10:00AM, NBC Sports Live Extra
After suffering four consecutive defeats over the festive run of fixtures, Everton are in real need of a victory. But with Manchester City visiting Goodison Park this weekend, it’s going to very difficult to get back to winning ways.
This might be the kind of big game the Toffees need to awaken themselves from a midseason slumber, though. In recent weeks the team has looked flat and the fans have been in an overdue state of melancholy, but with City rocking up at Goodison Park, that will surely change and we’ll see a much improved performance from the Merseysiders.
City have looked a little vulnerable themselves as of late though. Far from convincing home performances against a trio of lesser sides will be a concern to Manuel Pellegrini and he’ll be hoping a match on the road against what is on paper stronger opposition will help refine the focus of his team.
The champions have the firepower to cause this ropey Everton defense real problems in this one and subsequently it’s difficult to see any result other that a win for City. But the Toffees will be encouraged by the excellent record they have at Goodison Park in recent clashes, winning four of the last five matches on Merseyside.
Roma vs. Lazio
Sunday, January 11, 9:00AM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espańol & DishWorld
The opening round of fixtures in Italy following the festive hiatus treated us to a Derby d’Italia and the quality matches in Serie A seem to be coming thick and fast, with Roma and Lazio set to clash in the Rome derby at the Stadio Olimpico in what is always a volatile affair.
Roma will have been looking at the first fixtures of 2015 harbouring concerns. On the face of things, with the Giallorossi facing a tricky trip to Udinese and Juventus at home to a toiling Internazionale team, the Bianconeri looked poised to extend their three-point lead atop of the Serie A table. But a win for Roma and a just a point for Juve has made things very interesting indeed.
Rudi Garcia’s side will feel as though they have a wonderful chance of sampling domestic glory this season. Last campaign they began in scintillating fashion but burned out midseason, but during their 1-0 over Udinese, Roma looked like a team refreshed and focused ahead of what should be an intriguing run in.
City rivals Lazio will be especially keen to halt their momentum, though. They too are enjoying a wonderful season and currently find themselves in third place in Serie A, but with just eight points separating them and 12th place Udinese, thinks can change very quickly indeed. A win for Stefano Pioli’s team would haul them back to within six points of Roma.
Manchester United vs. Southampton
Sunday, January 11, 11:00AM, NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra
Ronald Koeman and his team will feel as though they owe Manchester United one this weekend, with the two teams poised to clash in what should be an encapsulating game at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie’s brace stole all three points for United when the two teams last met and that result saw Southampton endure a blip in what has been an otherwise exceptional campaign. But after a spell of defeats towards the back end of 2014, Saints look to have rediscovered their swagger in recent weeks and will fancy their chances this weekend.
You suspect Louis van Gaal will be glad to get his team back on home turf this weekend. The Red Devils have endured a succession of Premier League draws on the road as of late and they’ll be hopeful of getting back to winning ways at Old Trafford. There have been some signs of progression in recent weeks, but Champions League qualification surely remains the primary ambition for 2015.
Expect Saints to make things very difficult for United. Koeman’s side have the defensive diligence to shut out even the best attacking forces in the Premier League meaning that the home side’s array of attacking talent will have to be at their very best if the hosts are to take a much needed three points from this one.
Napoli vs. Juventus
Sunday, January 11, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS Connect (shown on replay at 1am on beIN SPORTS & DishWorld)
Massimiliano Allegri and his team will be hoping to bounce back from that disappointing draw against Inter this weekend, but there are few sterner tests for Serie A sides that a trip to the San Paolo to take on Napoli.
The Partenopei started 2015 with a bang, too. A virtuoso display from Gonzalo Higuain helped Napoli to an excellent 4-1 win away at Cesena in their last outing. They look to be in good form and after getting the better of Juventus recently on penalties in the Italian Super Cup final, you can bet that this is a clash they will relish the challenge of taking on the league leaders.
Juventus have dominated Serie A for the past three campaigns, but after slipping up in midweek against Inter, it looks as though we might be set for a long awaited race for the Scudetto. On paper, they remain the strongest squad in the division, but with an effervescent Roma side just one point back and breathing down their necks, it looks set to be a close run thing.
Napoli—like Lazio—are amongst a clutch of clubs who will fancy their chances of taking that third Champions League spot. A win over the champions would lay down a major marker for them, but after dropping points in midweek, expect a focused Bianconeri performance.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
Sunday, January 11, 3:00PM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espańol & DishWorld
After turbulent start to the season, Atletico Madrid didn’t really look capable of defending their La Liga crown this season. But after Barcelona and Real Madrid suffered shock losses in their last league outing, Diego Simeone’s side are back in with a shout; they can enhance their chances even further when they take on the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou this weekend.
It’s a venue that’ll stir positive memories amongst the Ateltico faithful. The club picked up a 1-1 draw to secure the league title in Catalonia last season and were roundly applauded by the home fans that remained in the iconic stadium. They will return this weekend with a much changed side, but one that is beginning to rediscover it’s swagger.
The performances of this Atletico team in recent weeks has been a joy to behold and in Antoine Griezmann, they have one of the finest players in the division at the moment. The French international will surely relish the chance to go up against what has been an occasionally ropey Barcelona back-line this season.
Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves were all left out of the Blaugrana squad for their defeat at Real Sociedad. All of those key men should return for this one and they’ll be desperate to get one over the Rojiblancos after failing to beat them in four attempts last season’s campaign.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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