It’s one game from each to the top five European leagues this weekend, with each set to have major connotations on the race for titles and Champions League places for next season.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich
A brilliant run of recent form seems to have gone a long way to putting Bayern’s early-season woes behind them. Still, this will be a big test for the defending champions away at Leverkusen.
While there appeared an outside chance before Christmas that we could be set for a multi-team title race, the recent runs from Bayern and Borussia Dortmund mean it’s likely to be a two-horse showdown. Going into this round of matches, the Munich giants trail Dortmund by six points.
Dortmund travel to Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon in what promises to be another challenging game, although the meeting in Leverkusen catches the eye too. Bayern, after all, are back to being the form team in the Bundesliga, winning their last seven in succession. Some key men have found some overdue form for the champions too.
Leverkusen have slowly recovered after their disastrous start to the season and have high quality players in the shape of Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt who can trouble any defence. If Bayern stand up to this challenge, it may be the surest indicator yet they’re ready to be their old selves again in 2019.
Barcelona vs. Valencia
Following on from the Copa del Rey mauling of Sevilla on Wednesday, Barcelona are back at the Camp Nou again on Saturday to focus their attention on their La Liga title pursuit against Valencia.
In the top flight Barcelona haven’t been at their free-flowing best as of late. Even so, they’re able to get to victories on the back of some pragmatic play and the irrepressible genius of Lionel Messi in the final third. Their 6-1 success on Wednesday over Sevilla offered positive signs there’s more to come, though.
The title race isn’t over yet either. Despite a recent injury crisis, Atletico Madrid have gone 18 games unbeaten in La Liga and are still just five points back. Barcelona play first this weekend and can go eight points clear with a victory; Atletico make the trip to Real Betis on Sunday in what is always a challenging game.
Valencia have had a frustrating campaign, drawing a remarkable 11 of their 21 games, which at least suggests they will be hard to beat at the Camp Nou on Saturday. They sit in seventh and will be keen to qualify for European competition for the second consecutive season.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal
The situation is critical for Manchester City in pursuit of a second consecutive Premier League title, as they trail Liverpool by five points going into this set of fixtures. It means this match against Arsenal is a must-win encounter.
City were well below their best in the clash against Newcastle United on Tuesday, as they lost concentration following Sergio Aguero’s early goal. It was a massive shock for Pep Guardiola’s side and you sense any more slips during the run-in will mean their chances of clinching top spot again will be over.
Arsenal picked up a hard-earned win in the week over Cardiff and ensured they remain in the conversation for a top four spot. Following their loss to West Ham United the Gunners have bounced back well in the Premier League, notching back-to-back victories, and will go to the Etihad Stadium with little pressure on them.
While City have had their problems on the road at home they’ve been strong as of late and remain massive favourites here. With Liverpool visiting West Ham on Monday, they must turn up the heat on their opponents with a big performance in this encounter.
Roma vs. AC Milan
Sunday, February 3, 2:30 p.m. ET, Roma vs. AC Milan, 2:30pm, ESPN+ (free trial)
Fresh from a 7-1 hammering at the hands of Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, Roma will be out to respond against AC Milan in Serie A on Sunday.
With Juventus set to coast to the title and Napoli and Inter occupying the next two spots, an exciting battle is beginning to take shape for the final Champions League place. Milan currently occupy it, with Roma a point back; Sampdoria are just two behind AC, while Atalanta and Lazio are three back.
It means that for the loser of this game the table could quickly look a lot less favourable. On home soil, Roma will be expected to respond after their Coppa meltdown and a loss would heap further pressure on manager Eusebio Di Francesco. The manner of their defeat in midweek after some decent recent progress will be of huge concern to him.
Milan are also in form and will have been boosted by a fine display against Napoli in the Coppa Italian in midweek. New signing Krzysztof Piatek was on the scoresheet twice in a 2-0 win and has been in red-hot form throughout this season. Roma will need to be wary of the Rossoneri as a result.
Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Although PSG are poised to coast to the Ligue 1 title this season, it’s always intriguing to watch them go up against one of the division’s other big names away from home.
Lyon have slowly started to find their feet again after a slow beginning to this campaign, with wins secured in their last two games. They remain in third in the table, just three points back on French football’s surprise package this season, Lille.
PSG won’t have Neymar to call on for this one after it was confirmed he was set for around 10 weeks on the sideline. Still, there will be excitement to see what Leandro Paredes can offer in midfield following his recent transfer from Zenit Saint Petersburg.
PSG’s lead at the summit of the table is a remarkable 13 points with two games in hand. This game will not have a huge impact on the title race as a result, although the Groupama Stadium can be a hostile venue for these types of matches and from a purely footballing perspective it should be a fine match to cap off the weekend.
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