The race for second place in a number of European leagues is currently more exciting than the battle for the top. So it’s no surprise this week’s feature includes a number of tussles involving those sides.
Indeed, in Germany, Spain, France and England there are four matches involving eight sides who will be hopeful of being the best of the rest. There’s also one of La Liga’s most intriguing derbies involving the league leaders.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
It’s tough to remember in recent years a division that has been as tight as the current Bundesliga. Subsequently, Monchengladbach, in seventh, and Leipzig, in fifth, will each feel they have a brilliant chance of finishing behind Bayern Munich.
That’s because Leverkusen, who are currently in second, are just eight points clear of Hertha Berlin, who sit in 12. Leipzig are just two points back and BMG are three points behind; it makes this encounter at Borussia Park a crucial one for the two sides involved.
Both of these teams have struggled for consistency as of late, though. Last season, Leipzig were comfortably the best team behind Bayern, although they’ve failed to reach the same levels lately. Their 1-1 draw at home to Hamburg last week was indicative of their issues, as they failed to convert their dominance into three points.
Monchengladbach have endured similar problems, as their season has lacked any fillip of momentum throughout. At home, Dieter Hecking has made this team tough to beat, and a win over Leipzig is the type of result that give a team like BMG the confidence needed to finally put a positive run together.
Barcelona remain imperious in La Liga, but on Sunday they will not only face their local rivals, they’ll face the only team to have beaten them in 2017-18 in Espanyol.
Indeed, in the first leg of their recent Copa del Rey meeting, Espanyol were able to derail Barcelona, battling to a 1-0 win in front of their supporters. The Blaugrana did overturn the deficit in the second leg, but the underdogs should take some confidence into this contest on Sunday at the RCDE Stadium.
Barcelona looked a little vulnerable on Sunday too, as they were made to sweat by Alaves at the Camp Nou. Goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi eventually saw them to a 2-1 win, but for long spells they were frustrated by their less illustrious opponents.
Still, Ernesto Valverde’s side always tend to find a way of getting through matches, with just six points dropped in La Liga all season. Espanyol will fancy this one, but a more concentrated Barcelona side surely stands between them and another unlikely triumph this weekend.
This showdown at Anfield is important for both sides as they seek to secure their spot in the Premier League’s top four. But for Tottenham it feels especially vital.
Spurs were excellent in their midweek win over Manchester United. Granted, the nature of Christian Eriksen’s 11-second opener was out of the ordinary, but it was indicative of this Tottenham team at their best. When they play with aggression and purpose, they’re so difficult to live with.
What’s proven to be an issue for Spurs lately is taking that front-foot approach away from home. In games at Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal this season, they’ve been inhibited. To change that mindset at Liverpool, a stadium where Tottenham have such a poor recent record, will be a big challenge.
Liverpool appear a little vulnerable. While the Reds got back to winning ways against Huddersfield in midweek, losses to Swansea and West Brom hauled longstanding issues back under the microscope. But it’s in these high-profile games at Anfield where Jurgen Klopp’s side tend to shine.
With Real Madrid not at their usual best this season, an opportunity has opened up for Atletico Madrid and Valencia to break the duopoly that’s existed at the top of La Liga.
With Real getting themselves together again in league matches recently, if either of these two sides have designs on finishing behind Barcelona this season then a positive result is imperative here. It adds another fascinating layer to what is always an intriguing game.
Valencia head to the Wanda Metropolitano after losing 4-1 to Los Blancos last weekend and there is some danger of impetus being drained from a season that appeared to have limitless heights at one stage. Even so, if Marcelino can steady the ship and secure Champions League football for next season, then the 2017-18 term must be deemed a major success.
Atletico are having a strange season, although given their elimination from the Champions League lately, they can focus on securing the runners-up berth as well as the Europa League. Victory here would put nine points between themselves and Valencia, surely guaranteeing a finish in the top three at least.
MONACO VS. LYON
Sunday, February 4, 3 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS Connect and fubo Premier
Like so many of the other leagues mentioned, it’s all about the runners up berth in Ligue 1 too. Monaco and Lyon are in the hunt for it.
There have been times this season, when they’ve been at their best at least, when Lyon have looked like the second best side in France by a stretch. Going forward, in particular, they’ve been a massive force, with Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Mariano Diaz providing tremendous incision at the top end of the pitch.
Nabil Fekir has been the man knitting things together so well for Lyon, though. The forward has been enjoying the best season of his career and operating in behind the striker has given him a new lease of life. He has 16 goals and six assists this season, and has arguably been the standout player in the top flight.
Monaco will hope to tame Lyon at home and will be galvanised by a stirring 2-2 draw at Marseille last time out. They currently sit in fourth, but a win here would see them usurp their upcoming opponents, who sit 11 points behind PSG.
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