There are certain weekends in a domestic football schedule that have the potential to shape the course of a season. In Italy and Spain, this feels like exactly that.
Especially in Serie A, where six of the top seven sides will go up against one another, meaning the race for the title and the Champions League spots may look a whole lot different come Sunday evening.
In Spain there’s a similar feeling as on Sunday the top two sides will meet, with the potential there for a title battle to be reignited. Meanwhile, in the Premier League the defending champions and the champions elect will meet.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
With this trip to the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday and a showdown with Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League to come next week, this stretch of fixtures is vital for Juventus.
The Bianconeri’s cancelled match with Atalanta last weekend means they now trail leaders Napoli by four points having played a game less and it means there’s absolutely no room for a slip up here. Up to now, Juve have been tremendous in trying to hunt down the Partenopei, winning their last nine games in succession in Serie A.
This is one of the biggest tests left in the campaign for the defending champions, as Lazio currently sit in third position having rediscovered some form with two recent wins in succession. Lazio also went to Juventus and won earlier in the campaign, meaning Simone Inzaghi’s side won’t be daunted by the challenge to come.
Indeed, Lazio are an irresistible attacking force, netting more goals than any side in the division. Containing Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile will be key to Juventus taking any sort of positive result from this one.
Whatever Juventus muster earlier in the day, Napoli will have the chance to respond on home soil against Roma on Saturday evening.
While for many Juve’s suspended fixture with Atalanta will mean little, it may be important to Napoli. It gives Maurizio Sarri’s side the chance to set the pace at the top of the table and as they chase a first league title since 1990, you sense that’ll suit this group of players.
It means that even three points for Juventus on Saturday wouldn’t be enough to put them back on top of the table. And for Napoli, if Juve were to lose at the Olimpico, there’d be a chance to put seven points between themselves and their rivals. It makes the visit of Roma a huge fixture at the San Paolo.
Roma haven’t relished matches against the biggest sides in Serie A this season, although away from home they have proven a tough nut to crack, with just one loss on the road in 2017-18. They sit in fifth heading into this weekend and will be desperate to ensure they stay in touch in the race for Champions League places.
If Atletico Madrid hold serious hopes of winning the La Liga title this season, then you feel as though they will need to go to Barcelona and win at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
The capital club are seven points behind the league leaders having embarked on a brilliant run of recent form. Diego Simeone’s side have found an attacking swagger in recent outings too, hammering Sevilla 5-2 on Sunday before smashing Leganes 4-0 on Wednesday. Remarkably, Antoine Griezmann has netted seven goals over the course of those two games.
Given how good Atletico have been as of late, it’s testament to the consistency of Barcelona that they’ve been able to stay seven points ahead of their rivals. And in the 6-1 hammering of Girona, they too showed an attacking sparkle, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele linking well.
The approach from both sides will be interesting here. Barcelona’s natural inclination will be to attack, although a draw would be a fine result. Meanwhile, Atletico are a defence-first football team that need to win. A fascinating tactical battle is on the cards at the Camp Nou.
With the first trophy of the Pep Guardiola era in the bag, you sense there’ll be a buzz around the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and that’s unlikely to help Chelsea’s cause.
The Blues, having slipped down to fifth after their loss to Manchester United last weekend, could find themselves seven points behind Liverpool and five points behind Tottenham Hotspur—both sides have winnable home games—heading into this showdown against the league leaders. It’d leave them with a mountain to climb in the race for a top four spot.
Indeed, it’s been a curious season overall for the Blues. In recent weeks they’ve played well against high-class opposition in Barcelona and United, although lapses in concentration in defence have cost them the chance of winning either fixture.
City had a midweek trip to Arsenal to negotiate and there may be some tired legs in the squad after such a bitter night at the Emirates Stadium. Nevertheless, with their qualification effectively secured for the next round of the Champions League, expect Guardiola to encourage his players to go full throttle at the visitors here.
In some recent seasons, the Derby della Madonnina has felt a little insignificant. But this meeting between AC and Inter is arguably the most important in years, as both sides chase potential Champions League qualification.
Of the two, it’s AC that head into this one as the form outfit, as they’ve been sensational in recent weeks under Gennaro Gattuso. Not only have they progressed into the Coppa Italia final, they’ve been marching up the table in Serie A, with a win over Roma on Sunday putting them within seven points of fourth.
That position is currently occupied by Inter, for whom the early season optimism of a title challenge has faded. Luciano Spalletti’s team have struggled as of late, with their 2-0 win over Benevento at the weekend far from convincing. They’ll at least be hopeful of keeping their rampant rivals at bay here.
The early-season meeting between these two great rivals was a classic, with Mauro Icardi stealing the show with a hat-trick and a late winner. You feel as though the Nerazzurri require another masterclass from their star man to emerge from this one with something.
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