Our selections this weekend are dominated by two divisions, with the fixture computers churning out fascinating contests in the Premier League and La Liga.
In both, the champions face challenging away trips. Elsewhere in England, there’s a clash between two sides seeking to force their way into reckoning for a Champions League place, while the second selection from Spain is one of the country’s biggest tussles.
All kick offs are in Eastern time, enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games.
Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona
Barcelona are in the midst of a challenging run of fixtures, with this trip to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad poised to be one of their toughest domestic matches of the season.
Sociedad have taken the division by surprise this season, playing an absorbing brand of attacking football. Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard has been at the heart of their vibrant play and you can bet his parent club would have been encouraging him this week to turn in a big performance against their rivals.
Barcelona appear to be finding an impressive groove at the right time though and will take huge confidence from their 2-1 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League in midweek.
Manager Ernesto Valverde was even able to rest Lionel Messi for that encounter, meaning he will be fit and fresh for this fixture in the Basque country. In his last outing, Messi grabbed a stunning hat-trick in a 5-2 win over Real Mallorca.
Arsenal vs. Manchester City
Both Arsenal and Manchester City find themselves in peculiar positions coming into this showdown at the Emirates Stadium
The Gunners picked up their first win in nine games on Monday against West Ham United and that would have been huge relief for interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. Summer signing Nicolas Pepe also produced his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, scoring one goal and setting up the other.
City were humbled in front of their own supporters last weekend against local rivals Manchester United, leaving them a staggering 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool. Defensively, they were all at sea against the Red Devils, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James causing countless issues on the counter attack.
With neither side at their fluent best at the moment, the match may take some time to ignite. But given the attacking class both sides have at their disposal and the defensive issues they’ve both endured, expect goals to flow in north London.
Wolves vs. Tottenham Hotspur
After a slow start to the campaign, Wolves have started to make steady progress up the table and go into the game with Tottenham Hotspur in sixth place.
Nuno Santo’s team would have been hoping to push for a spot in the top six this term, but it feels like there is a chance for some sides from outside the established elite to shake up the usual order. With Chelsea struggling for form and Tottenham a point behind them, a win would be a huge boost for Wolves.
Mourinho’s Spurs are unlikely to represent easy opposition though, albeit they’ve yet to find the defensive solidity the Portuguese coach has been renowned for in his career to date. However, he’s reignited the form of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli, who will offer a big threat at Molineux on Sunday.
For both teams, it feels like a barometer fixture that’ll tell us a lot about where their ambitions will lie for the rest of the season. With matches coming thick and fast from next weekend on, a confidence boost will be crucial.
Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan
If Inter Milan are going to claim the Serie A title this season, it’s matches like this one against Fiorentina in which they’ll need to step up.
Not only is any clash away from home against La Viola a test, Inter will go into the game on the back of a heartbreaking defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League. Antonio Conte’s side were unable to beat a scratch Blaugrana XI and were subsequently eliminated from the tournament, dropping into the Europa League.
Although there have been issues for the Nerazzurri in European competition, in Serie A they’ve been rock-solid and go into the weekend with a one-point lead over their rivals Juventus. Given Juve have a home fixture with Udinese earlier in the day, Inter are likely to be off top spot come kick off at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Fiorentina will see this match as a chance to kickstart their season, as they are languishing down in 13th place. They’ve lost their last four games in succession.
Valencia vs. Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s visit to the Mestalla to face Valencia is always one of the biggest events on the Spanish football calendar and the latest showdown between the two teams is shaping up to be a fascinating contest.
Los Blancos appear to be coming into form towards the end of the calendar year, with manager Zinedine Zidane managing to set his side up well despite myriad injury issues.
The Madrid manager will be without the likes of Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard for this fixture, although other facets of the team are functioning well. Karim Benzema is in the form of his life up top, while in midfield the likes of Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde are all fighting for a starting berth.
Valencia will also be in sky-high spirits, as they produced a resolute display to beat Ajax away from home in the Champions League in midweek, qualifying for the knockout stages in the process. They may be down in eighth in La Liga ahead of the weekend, but Los Che are only a point back on Sociedad in fourth.
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