With half of the Premier League taking a winter break this weekend, the spotlight will fall on intriguing goings on in other corners of Europe.
There are two matches involving three title contenders in Germany, as well a couple of mouth-watering clashes in Spain. In Italy, it’s a huge day on Sunday, with the Derby della Madonnina set to go ahead at San Siro.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
It wasn’t too long ago that Dortmund’s chances of winning the Bundesliga title had all but gone. Some smart January acquisitions have reignited belief at the Westfalenstadion.
Of course, Erling Haaland has given Dortmund huge momentum. The Norwegian has netted seven goals in his first three Bundesliga outings and was on target in midweek as the team lost 3-2 to Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal.
In league matches, Dortmund have thrived as of late, netting five goals in each of their three matches. In addition to Haaland, Jadon Sancho has rediscovered his spark and they will head to Leverkusen knowing a win would temporarily put them joint-top of the table.
Leverkusen will not be an easy opponent though, especially given their form has picked up. Bayer are eight points off the summit and will feel as though if results go their way this weekend, they will have an outside change of challenging in the coming weeks.
After thrilling wins for both Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey this week, both teams will carry huge positivity into the Basque derby on Sunday.
In the space of four hours on Thursday, the two Basque outfits knocked Spain’s two biggest clubs out of the Copa. First up it was the turn of Sociedad, who were involved in a dramatic 4-3 win at Real Madrid; Martin Odegaard, who is on loan at La Real from Los Blancos, starred and scored the opener, while Alexander Isak also grabbed a brace.
Straight after that encounter it was the turn of Athletic, who beat Barcelona thanks to an injury-time winner for the second time this season. In the 93rd minute it was Inaki Williams who struck, sending the San Mames into delirium.
In La Liga, both teams have slipped off the pace a little as of late, although a derby win would potentially catapult both back into the running for a European spot. Sociedad are in eighth and five points off third, with Athletic a further place and three points behind.
Arguably the biggest match of the weekend sees the top two in Germany face off, with RB Leipzig seeking to inject some impetus back into their campaign at the home of the champions.
Before the winter break, Leipzig looked like genuine contenders for glory. However, a loss and a draw in their previous two matches have allowed Bayern to overhaul them; a defeat for Julian Nagelsmann’s team on Sunday would leave them with a mountain to climb in the remaining weeks of the season.
Bayern have clicked into an ominous groove as of late too. They’re playing their best football of the campaign, stringing together six wins in succession. At Mainz last time out, they surged into a three-goal lead within 26 minutes, showcasing the blistering firepower they possess.
Leipzig will be hopeful that their counter-attacking style can catch Bayern off guard, with the raw speed of Timo Werner likely to cause problems for exposed defenders. If they were to win at the Allianz Arena, then they’d surely have the confidence to push on and fight for their first ever Bundesliga prize.
Inter Milan vs. AC Milan
Sunday, February 9, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Inter Milan are clinging on in the race for the Serie A title and their rivals AC Milan will be keen to derail their challenge on Sunday.
The Nerazzurri have drawn their previous three games in the Italian top flight, but Juventus’ surprise loss to Napoli a fortnight ago means they’ve been able to stay in touch. Antonio Conte’s team remain second-favourites, but a three-point gap will keep the defending champions on their toes.
By the time this match at the San Siro kicks off, there may be a six-point advantage to make up, as Juventus travel to Verona on Sunday. It will be intriguing to see how Inter react in that scenario, especially in a showdown that always triggers plenty of emotion in Milan.
After a dreadful beginning to the campaign, AC Milan have slowly started to find consistency in recent weeks. They are now up to eighth after five games unbeaten and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing in his first Milan derby since returning to the club, they will fancy their chances of springing a surprise.
After their shock elimination against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, Barcelona will be out to end a turbulent week on a high against Betis.
Following public spats between club director Eric Abidal and star player Lionel Messi, the Blaugrana turned in a turgid performance in the Basque Country on Thursday. With the Copa del Rey gone, winning the league title will come into increased focus.
That’ll heap the pressure on new manager Quique Setien already. The match in Andalusia will be a special one for the coach too, as he enjoyed a memorable two-year spell in charge of Betis between 2017 and 2019.
Since their brilliant 2017-18 season, Betis have been unable to build and they currently sit down in 12th place in the Spanish top flight. The visit of Barcelona and their former boss at the Benito Villamarin Stadium should make for a hostile atmosphere and as was evidenced on Thursday, the champions have been prone to crumbling in these kinds of environments.