With just one title race still being run in earnest across European football’s top five divisions, for the remainder of the 2017-18 campaign we’ll have to take enjoyment from games in isolation.
The one title tussle of major interest is in Italy, although what looked at one point like it was going to be a five-horse race is on the verge of becoming a two-way scrap. The leaders face a tough challenge on Sunday, while one of the sides seeking to cling onto them will face high-class opposition.
Elsewhere, there are games from England, Spain and France that may not have a massive say in determining who finishes with silverware, but should be absorbing 90 minutes’ nevetheless.
At one point Burnley looked capable of gatecrashing the top six in the Premier League, although they will take on United in search of some impetus.
The Clarets have been unable to muster a win in their last six games and while they still sit in seventh place in the table, there are a number of sides beginning to close the gap to them. At Turf Moor, in front of their own supporters and against an illustrious name would be a tremendous time to get confidence up again.
United’s pursuit of Alexis Sanchez has hogged a lot of headlines this week, but the Red Devils did lodge an important win on Monday against Stoke City. And while a 12-point gap to Manchester City still feels insurmountable, Jose Mourinho will be desperate to establish United as the best of the rest for now.
With the weather turning nasty at this time of the year, this match is likely to be a dogfight at times, especially given the pragmatic nature of both bosses. However, the result will tell us a lot about what to expect from both sides in the final part of the season.
ATALANTA VS. NAPOLI
Sunday, January 21, 6:30 a.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier
After the winter break in Serie A, league leaders Napoli face a difficult reintroduction into top-flight Italian football, as they visit Bergamo for a testing showdown against Atalanta.
The hosts have lacked consistency this term in the main, although lately La Dea have struck up some form and now find themselves out of the top six only on goal difference. Manager Gian Piero Gasperini has steered his side to some big wins this season too, with their victory over Juventus earlier in the campaign a particular highlight.
Earlier this month Atalanta also beat Napoli in the Coppa Italia at the San Paolo. Subsequently, they’ll be confident of tossing a spanner in the works of the table toppers, while Napoli will surely be wary of what Atalanta can offer, especially in front of what’ll be a raucous home backing.
If Napoli are to become champions, then these are the types of clashes they must find a way through, especially with Juventus breathing down their necks. Should Maurizio Sarri’s side emerge victorious from this one, it’ll be a huge boost ahead of what promises to be a fascinating run-in.
Although Barcelona appear to have the La Liga title sewn up already, Sunday’s visit to the Benito Villamarim has the potential to be one of the games of the season.
Betis have been one of the most entertaining sides to watch anywhere in Europe this term, with manager Quique Setien setting his side up to attack in every game. It’s yielded some stunning results for the Andalusians, including wins away at Real Madrid and away at rivals Sevilla. They’ve crept up into seventh spot recently too.
They’ll sense some Blaugrana blood, especially after Barcelona lost to Espanyol in midweek in the Copa del Rey. However, in La Liga Ernesto Valverde’s side have been practically flawless and in last week’s 4-2 comeback win over Real Sociedad, showed so many positive aspects to their play.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have each started 2018 in potent form in front of goal and they’ll revel in the space that’ll inevitably be afforded to them here. Betis won’t be daunted by that, though, and will fancy their chances of giving the Catalan giants some issues of their own.
INTER MILAN VS. ROMA
Sunday, January 21, 2:45 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier
If either Inter or Roma are going to challenge for the Scudetto this season, you sense a win here will be their last hope.
Ahead of the festive period the two teams appeared prepared for a genuine title tilt, having started the season at a blistering pace. However, the limitations of each side have been shown up lately, with Inter without a win in their last five games and Roma taking just five points from the same period.
Inter’s demise has perhaps been the most surprising, as Luciano Spalletti’s team appeared so tough to beat and so efficient in front of goal earlier in the season. Now, they’re nine points back on Napoli and appear short of the assurance that bristled a few months ago. A win, especially against Roma, would change that.
Roma have continued a familiar trend of flattering to deceive in recent seasons and the defeat to Juventus has really knocked them out of their stride. Still, they’re renowned as a strong counter-attacking team and with the right mindset, they can cause an unsure Inter some issues.
LYON VS. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Sunday, January 21, 3 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier
Like the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, the Ligue 1 title races appears to be sorted already. Still, PSG’s visit to Lyon is an encounter well worth tuning in for.
It’s second hosting first, after all. Lyon have put together a brilliant run lately, winning five and drawing one of their last six matches and moving in front of Monaco into second in the process. In Nabil Fekir, they have one of the division’s finest players, while Memphis Depay and Mariano Diaz have completed a potent attacking trio.
PSG’s attacking riches have been there for all to see this season too and on Wednesday they flexed their muscles with a stunning 8-0 win over Dijon. Neymar was the orchestrator of the victory, as he netted four times and picked up two assists. Stopping him has to be top of Lyon’s agenda.
The Groupama Stadium is one of the most atmospheric in France and should provide a brilliant backdrop to an absorbing game. For PSG, it’s arguably the most difficult domestic challenge they still have to face this season.
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