Top 5 must-see soccer games: Feb. 12, 2016

arsenal-leicester

The title races in England and Italy have been enthralling to watch this campaign, and as we move towards climax of the season in each country, the excitement only looks likely to increase.

In England, the league leaders have gone from surprise packages to outright favorites and they’ll be heading to the home of a title rival seeking to fortify their strong position. The two other teams in the hunt also meet on Sunday, in what’s likely to be a decisive day in the term.

Serie A has also had us hooked in 2015-16. Now, there are two main contenders, who meet on Saturday afternoon, while the teams chasing the final Champions League spot also go head-to-head. Beginning the weekend will be the most eye-catching contest of the weekend in Spain’s top flight.

All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!

 

Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club

Saturday, February 13, 10:00AM, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS Español, fuboTV and KlowdTV

real-madrid-athletic

With Barcelona and Atletico Madrid leading the way in La Liga, Real Madrid know they need to be pretty much perfect during the run-in. But Athletic Club will put those ambitions to the test at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

Real were able to edge past Granada in their previous outing thanks to a stunning late strike from Luka Modric. Away from home Los Blancos have looked a little vulnerable at times, although since Zinedine Zidane took over, the Santiago Bernabeu has been a happy hunting ground, with 16 goals scored there in their last three games.

Athletic have been having a peculiar campaign to date and sit in sixth place heading into this one. They’ve won two of their last three in La Liga, but last time they went to the home of one of the division’s elite sides, Barcelona earlier this month, they crumbled to a 6-0 loss. Still, they’ll have some slender hopes of pushing towards a Champions League spot.

Zidane will be well aware that the chances of his side winning the title are very slim, as they trail Barcelona by four points having played a game more. However, playing early on Saturday, there’s a fine chance for Real to put the pressure on their great rivals ahead of their showdown with Celta Vigo on Sunday.

 

Juventus vs. Napoli

Saturday, February 13, 2:45PM, beIN SPORTS, fuboTV and KlowdTV

juventus-napoli

For long spells of the season, the title race in Italy seemed set to be a four or five-horse pursuit. But the exceptional form of Juventus and Napoli has whittled it down to two.

Both teams are playing fantasy football at this juncture. Napoli lead the way at the top of the table by two points having won their last eight, but the Bianconeri, even though they are trailing the divisional leaders by two points, are on an even better run, having put together a sequence of 14 victories. For at least one side, that run will end on Saturday.

At this juncture, you’d have to say Juve are the favorites to make it five league titles in succession. With Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba playing superbly, no team in top flight have been able to live with the champions and on home soil on Saturday they’ll fancy their chances of besting the Partenopei.

It’s the most significant match of the season in Serie A and given Juve’s longstanding dominance of the division, arguably the most crucial in years. If Napoli, inspired by the awesome form of Gonzalo Higuain, want to give themselves a chance of winning their first championship since 1990, you feel it’s imperative they take something from this enormous encounter in Turin.

 

Arsenal vs. Leicester City

Sunday, February 14, 7:00AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

arsenal-leicester

Arsenal have a superb chance to propel themselves back into the title race on Sunday as they host table toppers Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium.

Any lingering thoughts that the Foxes were not serious title challengers were dispelled last weekend as they swatted Manchester City aside at the Etihad Stadium. It was a result that represented a massive statement from Claudio Ranieri’s men, who are now the favorites with many to take the Premier League crown.

Winning at Arsenal will not be easy, though. Of all the teams in the Premier League this season, the Gunners have coped with Leicester the best, running out 5-2 winners at the King Power Stadium. Arsene Wenger’s side, who trail the Foxes by five points, need to secure a similar outcome here if they’re to take the title you feel.

Leicester will be dangerous on the counter-attack, though, as they were against City in that 3-1 masterclass. Arsenal must take their threat seriously or they may be made to look very foolish by the shock league leaders; on the flip side a win for the hosts would blow the title race wide open once again.

 

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Sunday, February 14, 11:15AM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

super-sunday

With two of the title chasers going head-to-head earlier in the day, this weekend could see Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur make a decisive move in pursuit of silverware.

The Etihad Stadium fans will be expecting a response after their last outing, when they were humbled by Leicester. There was almost an arrogance in the way in which Manuel Pellegrini’s side approached the game, as they opened the match up for their counter-attack-savvy opposition, so expect greater tactical caution to be taken by the team in this one.

Tottenham are an outfit which deserves respect too. At the moment Mauricio Pochettino’s men look like the side best primed to challenge Leicester, as they moved into second place in the table last weekend. If they can go to the Etihad and pick up three points, the confidence will surely be there in this group to push the Foxes all the way to the finish line.

When these two met earlier in the season Spurs overrun City, with their energy too much for Pellegrini’s men to cope with in a 4-1 win. Expect a similarly industrious performance from the visitors, although having been stung last weekend, the hosts will surely respond with a better display.

 

Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan

Sunday, February 14, 2:45PM; Not available live, will be shown at 4:30PM on tape delay on beIN SPORTS, fuboTV and KlowdTV

fiorentina-inter-milan

Clinging onto the coattails of the division’s two standout sides are Fiorentina and Inter Milan, who both need a victory if they’re to preserve any slender hopes of winning the title.

Each of these teams looked as though they were ready to challenge for the Scudetto this season. Fiorentina swept their way to the summit with some enterprising football, while Inter had mechanically ground out results in the early weeks of the season. But the fine form of the top two has made both of these potential contenders look more like pretenders.

Fiorentina are just 10 points back on Napoli and could feasibly cut the gap down this weekend with the league leaders heading to Juventus. The Viola seem to have found their rhythm again in recent weeks too, winning two and drawing two of their last four games; a win here would be a big boost to their chances of Champions League qualification.

Inter are currently in a slump, with consistency tough to come by. Last time out they could only draw with the division’s bottom side Verona and the wounds are still raw following their 3-0 loss to Milan in the derby. Three points at the Stadio Artemio Franchi could be what’s needed to spark a strong finish to the season into life.

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