Top 5 must-see soccer games: Feb. 5, 2015

Gimenez

It’s not often we get to sample three of European football’s most iconic derby matches on the same day, back to back. The North London, Madrid and Merseyside rivalries capture the passion of a local rivalry like few other fixtures in the game. Each club involved has a rich history, longstanding traditions and—aside from bragging rights—their own reasons for needing a vital three points.

Capping off the superb action on Saturday is a contest between two of Italy’s most iconic sides. While Sunday will see two of African football’s greatest countries look to conquer a longstanding tournament drought in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Not enough for you? There’s a whopping four honorable mentions if you want to chop and change your games, or just watch two at once!

All kickoff times are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!

Honorable Mentions

Schalke vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Friday February 6, 2:30PM
GolTV & fuboTV PRO

The Bundesliga got started with a bang last weekend and the sides in third and fourth place tackle each other in what should be a gripping contest to get the weekend underway. Schalke can leapfrog Monchengladbach with a victory at the Veltins Arena.

Lyon vs. Paris Saint Germain
Sunday February 8, 3:00PM
beIN SPORTS & DishWorld

This vibrant young Lyon team are on a roll at the moment and are two points clear of reigning champions. PSG can’t really afford to lose this one, but they will fancy their chances against a Lyon side that look set to be without talisman and leading goalscorer Alexandre Lacazette.

West Ham United vs. Manchester United
Sunday February 8, 11:00AM
NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra

Upton Park has been a notoriously difficult venue for visiting teams so far this season and Manchester United will be the latest team trying to beat West Ham on home soil. Louis van Gaal’s side go into the weekend in third spot, but have Arsenal and Southampton hot on their heels.

Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona 
Sunday February 8, 3:00PM
beIN SPORTS Espańol & DishWorld

Barcelona just got the better of Villarreal in a thrilling encounter at the Camp Nou last weekend and with the Madrid derby on Saturday they could have a chance to make up some crucial ground in the title race. The Basque outfit are having a tough season, but can be formidable opponents at the San Mames.

 

Tottenham vs. Arsenal

Saturday February 7,  7:45AM
NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra

OX

Both teams come into this one in excellent form and typically the North London derby is one of the most fluid, entertaining and goal-filled fixtures on the calendar. Tottenham are the hosts for this year’s fixture, but they’ll welcome an Arsenal team that has fallen into a very impressive groove as of late.

One major blow for the Gunners is the absence of Alexis Sanchez. The mercurial Chilean has been Arsenal’s best player so far this season and his unrelenting endeavor would have been vital to the visitors picking up a victory at what’s a very difficult venue. Encouragingly for Arsene Wenger, there are a host of other attacking midfielders ready to step in.

Indeed, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott shone as a trio behind Olivier Giroud in the Gunners’ hammering of Aston Villa in their last outing. Wenger also has Tomas Rosicky—who always seems to net in this fixture—and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain to call upon if needed. It’s at the back where you worry for this Arsenal side.

Especially coming up against a vibrant Spurs offense. The link up play between Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen has been delicious as of late; that pairing will certainly fancy their chances of getting at this Arsenal back four. A win for Mauricio Pochettino’s side would push them above their North London rivals in the table and lay down a real marker in their pursuit of a top four finish.

 

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid

Saturday February 7, 10:00AM
beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Espańol & DishWorld

Atl

It’s difficult to comprehend that Atletico Madrid once went 14 years—between 1999 and 2013—without beating Real Madrid in any game at all. But on the cusp of the latest edition of this enthralling rivalry, Diego Simeone’s team seem to boast an Indian sign over their more illustrious rivals and will be looking to haul themselves back into title contention with victory at the Vicente Calderon.

They’ll fancy their chances of doing exactly that too. These two teams have already met on four occasions this season and Atletico haven’t lost a single game. Indeed, in the last meeting at the Calderon, Simeone’s men were magnificent in nullifying the attacking arsenal available to Carlo Ancelotti, before netting two fine goals of their own.

Real aren’t exactly in full flight heading into this one either. They will welcome Cristiano Ronaldo back from suspension which is an undoubted boost, but Sergio Ramos hobbled off in midweek—leaving Los Blancos with a likely centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Nacho—James Rodriguez is also injured and Marcelo is suspended.

Ancelotti will be looking for the likes of Varane, Iker Casillas and Toni Kross to step up at the back and shut Atletico out. The hosts will put a lot of pressure on the makeshift Los Blancos back four and it’s difficult to see how they’ll cope with the burly Mario Mandzukic and the effervescence of Antoine Griezmann.

 

Everton vs. Liverpool

Saturday February 7, 12:30PM
NBC & NBC Sports Live Extra

Jagielka

Everton snatched a point in this fixture earlier in the season thanks to a wonderful strike from Phil Jagielka when both sides were at a low ebb. Liverpool are a much improved team from that early season encounter, while those of a blue persuasion are still waiting for their team to click into gear.

At the moment everything seems to be going well for the Reds. Daniel Sturridge could start this one after his cameos against Bolton Wanderers and West Ham, Raheem Sterling is looking replenished after his winter break and Philippe Coutinho is playing arguably the finest football of his Liverpool career so far.

Brendan Rodgers’ side will be eyeing a top four spot in the second half of this season and a win at the home of their local rivals would be an excellent catalyst for a finishing flourish. They have an exceptional record in this particular fixture too; the Red side haven’t lost against Everton since October 2010.

The Blues picked up a vital away win at Crystal Palace last time out, but in truth their domestic campaign is all but over. The lack of pressure on the Toffees going into this one might suit them though and with the game scheduled for the late kick off on Saturday evening, the players should tap in to what will be a thunderous Goodison Park atmosphere.

 

Juventus vs. Milan

Saturday February 7, 2:45PM
beIN SPORTS & DishWorld

Juve

Pippo Inzaghi’s Milan team were one of the most active clubs in Europe during the mid-season transfer window and the manager will be hoping these players can settle in an expedite an overdue rise up the table. There are few more ominous challenges in European football than taking on Juventus away from home however.

Milan have been in torrid form so far this season and are languishing down in ninth place coming into this match. Their victory against bottom side Parma last time out was their first win in six matches and Inzaghi will be hoping this unsettled side can carry some momentum into what is a massive task this weekend.

Indeed, Juventus have been very steady in recent weeks and have opened up a seven-point gap from Roma atop the Italian top flight. At home they’re pretty formidable too, having won eight and drawn two of their ten home games so far.

Paul Pogba is definitely the on to watch here. The Bianconeri midfielder has been in sensational form in recent weeks, lighting up Serie A with his multi-faceted displays at the centre of this excellent Juventus side. Milan will have to ensure they get a grip of him if they are to have any chance of getting a positive result in Turin.

 

Ivory Coast vs. Ghana

Sunday February 8, 2:00PM
beIN SPORTS & DishWorld

Cote

Both of these nations have harbored a longstanding reputation for falling short of the final step in this competition, but either Ivory Coast or Ghana will be crowned champions of Africa in Sunday’s showpiece final.

Ivory Coast have improved steadily throughout this tournament. Beating pre-tournament favorites Algeria in the quarter-finals seemed to fill this team with real confidence and that was on show in earnest during their semi-final victory over DR Congo. With Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony firing, they’re the favorites heading into this one.

Credit must go to the Black Stars for their run to the final, though. Avram Grant took charge of the Ghana team just six weeks before the tournament, but up to now they’ve been cohesive, vibrant and very difficult to beat. Their performance against hosts Equatorial Guinea was a very professional display and they’ll be desperate to pick up a long overdue triumph in this tournament.

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