Top 5 must-see soccer games: Dec. 20, 2018

While some of European soccer’s biggest domestic competitions are winding down before Christmas, for others the fixture intensity is about to be ramped up.

That includes the Premier League and Serie A, where matches will be played up until the 23rd December and beginning again on Boxing Day; two fixtures from both of those divisions make up four fifths of our quintet this week.

Elsewhere, there’s a crucial showdown in the Bundesliga, as the surprise league leaders look to take momentum into the winter break when they face the team in second spot.

All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend, enjoy the games and enjoy your Christmas football!

 

Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach

Friday, December 21, 2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network, fuboTV, Sling Blue and PlayStation Vue (free trial)

As we gear up for the winter break in Germany, few would have anticipated that Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach would be leading the way in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund have been dominant throughout the course of the campaign, but suffered their first major setback on Tuesday ahead of this one. They were shocked by Fortuna Dusseldorf, losing for the first time in the German top flight this season.

Given BMG and Bayern Munich both picked up wins, the gap suddenly doesn’t look so insurmountable for teams seeking to hunt Lucien Favre’s men down at the top. Both Bayern and Monchengladbach trail the leaders by three points and the latter would love to throw another spanner in the works on Friday.

It will be a challenge for BMG, especially given the foundation of their fine campaign so far has been their home form. Still, they have the players and adaptability needed to cause problems for the leaders and their former manager Favre in the opposition dugout.

 

Wolves vs. Liverpool

Friday, December 21, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Universo, fuboTV, Sling Blue and PlayStation Vue (free trial)

Friday night’s meeting at Molineux gets the congested English football calendar underway, with leaders Liverpool seeking to continue their impressive recent form with a victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

While much of the focus following Liverpool’s win over Manchester United on Sunday was on the predicament and subsequent fallout surrounding the hapless visitors, Jurgen Klopp’s side also deserve credit. After Manchester City beat Everton to go top on Saturday, the Reds were able to respond in kind and retake their one-point lead.

Klopp has some big choices to make in terms of the personnel he selects too. Not only will he have the cluster of upcoming fixtures in mind when it comes to keeping everyone fresh, Xherdan Shaqiri will be pushing for a starting berth having scored twice when emerging from the bench on Sunday.

Wolves have shown already this term they have it in them to cause shocks at home, having held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw and beaten Chelsea more recently; they also have three wins from their last three games. With that in mind, this will be far from straightforward for Liverpool.

 

AC Milan vs. Fiorentina

Saturday, December 22, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, Sling Orange and PlayStation Vue (free trial)

Milan will be looking to preserve their place in the top four of Serie A going into the festive fixtures, starting with a positive result against a dangerous Fiorentina team at the San Siro.

Gennaro Gattuso would have been frustrated by his team’s performance ahead of this match, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Bologna in midfweek. Although they remain in position to qualify for the Champions League next season, they’ve had three ties in their last four league matches; the Europa League elimination also added to the fanbase’s frustration.

They will also go into this fixture without Tiemoue Bakayoko, who was sent off in the stalemate with Bologna having enjoyed a recent renaissance in the team. Milan have also gone two games without troubling the scorers in Serie A, with Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone not functioning fully as an attacking partnership.

Fiorentina appear set for a midtable finish, yet they’re the type of side that will spring surprises throughout the course of the campaign. Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone are definitely footballers the Milan back four will need to be wary of.

 

Juventus vs. Roma

Saturday, December 22, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+ (7-day free trial)

There won’t be any stopping Juventus as they march towards another Serie A title, but it’s always intriguing when the Bianconeri come up against capital club Roma.

The Giallorossi are in a challenging spell of form at the moment, as they’re struggling to find any sort of consistency under manager Eusebio di Francesco. They were held to a draw by nine-man Cagliari, upset by Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League and just scraped a win against Genoa last weekend.

Given their issues a trip to Turin is not ideal for Roma, especially as Juventus appear to be coming to the boil. Cristiano Ronaldo has settled into a rhythm in front of goal and they’ve won their last seven matches in succession; they’re already eight points clear of Napoli, which is in stark contract to their thrilling title race last term.

Despite their poor form Roma remain well in contention to finish in a Champions League spot this season. They are in seventh on 24 points, just three back on AC Milan in fourth; however, there’s little between a number of sides in the top half, with Fiorentina in 10th on 22.

 

Everton vs. Tottenham

Sunday, December 23, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN, fuboTV, Sling Blue and PlayStation Vue (free trial)

The final Premier League fixture before Christmas will see Everton host Tottenham Hotspur under the Goodison Park lights.

Spurs continued their understated start to the Premier League season with a 1-0 win over Burnley last weekend and remain in touching distance of Liverpool and City above them. The challenge for manager Mauricio Pochettino here will be getting his team in the right kind of shape for the match on Merseyside having played against Arsenal in midweek too.

As for Everton, a positive beginning to the campaign has fizzled out lately, with the last-gasp loss to rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby seemingly rocking Marco Silva’s players. A trip to Manchester City last time out was always going to be a big challenge too.

The Toffees will be well rested going into this encounter and have attacking players to trouble what is an injury-ravaged Spurs side at the moment. Expect an entertaining game between two teams desperate to send supporters home happy before Christmas.

 

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