Given the relentless nature of fixture calendars across European football, a summer day without matches feels like a drag all of a sudden. This weekend is packed full of captivating contests.
Three of the selections come from Italy, with plenty up for grabs still in the top flight. Elsewhere, there are crucial fixtures in the Premier League and La Liga to savor.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Juventus vs. Torino
Saturday, July 4, 11:15 a.m. ET, ESPN+
Juventus have had almost undisturbed joy in the Derby della Mole in recent years and are big favourites to get the better of their city rivals Torino again on Saturday.
With nine games remaining in the Serie A season, Juventus have managed to build up a four-point lead over their nearest rivals Lazio and victory in this encounter would extend their advantage further; the chasers have a tricky fixture to negotiate later on on Saturday too.
Juventus put in one of their best performances of the year in midweek, showcasing their attacking depth in the 3-1 win over Genoa. Manager Maurizio Sarri would have been delighted to see forward stars Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Douglas Costa get on the scoresheet.
Torino aren’t completely out of trouble in terms of relegation yet, as they sit in 13th, six points clear of Lecce in 18th. However, anything they can pick up away at their rivals will be considered a massive bonus given the gulf in quality between the two teams.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Arsenal
Wolves are one of the most in-form teams in the Premier League going into the weekend matches and will be big favourites against an Arsenal side which is still showcasing vulnerabilities in their play.
Nuno Santo’s team have excelled for much of 2020 and have been especially strong since the Premier League restarted. Not only are they blessed with a variety of different options in the final third, defensively they have been rock solid, keeping clean sheets in eight of their last nine Premier League games.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta would have been pleased with some aspects of his team’s performance in the 4-0 win over Norwich City, although will be well aware this match represents a massive step-up in quality for his players.
It’ll also be fascinating to see how Wolves cope with being under some pressure; with just two points separating them in sixth and Leicester City in third, plenty are now expecting the Midlands outfit to push on and secure a top-four finish this term.
Lazio vs. AC Milan
Saturday, July 4, 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
In all likelihood, Lazio will be seven points behind Juventus come kick off on Saturday night, meaning there is no room for error when AC Milan visit the Stadio Olimpico.
After their dramatic loss to Atalanta put a huge dent in the team’s title ambitions, it would have been easy for Lazio to let their focus slip. But Simone Inzaghi’s team have responded well to that setback, coming from behind to beat Fiorentina and Torino 2-1 in their subsequent matches.
Against Milan they may find life a little harder if they do fall behind, as Stefano Pioli’s team have been in decent form since the restart. While they were frustrated by SPAL in a 2-2 draw last time out, in the match before they were excellent in a 2-0 win over Roma; the Rossonerri also remain in contention for a Europa League spot.
Keeping Ciro Immobile quiet will be a huge challenge for the Milan defense. He’s on 29 goals for the campaign and with nine games remaining, he’ll be eyeing Gonzalo Higuain’s record of 36 in a single Serie A campaign.
Villarreal vs. Barcelona
Barcelona have endured back-to-back draws ahead of this weekend’s trip to Villarreal, meaning they have a lot of work to do if they’re to retain their title.
Not only were the team below par in midweek against Atletico Madrid in a 2-2 draw, the manner of the result has prompted more questions than answers. Quique Setien’s decision to only introduce Antoine Griezmann into the game in stoppage time has understandably caused quite a stir in the Catalan capital.
As for Villarreal, there’s a major feel-good factor around the football club at the moment. Not only has star midfielder Bruno returned after almost three years due to injury, the team is playing some vibrant football and making a huge push for the Champions League.
While Barcelona won’t feel as though the title has completely gone yet, if they fail to take anything from this fixture—especially given Real Madrid have a more straightforward run-in on paper—then surely that’ll be the end of their championship hopes.
Napoli vs. Roma
Sunday, July 5, 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
After being in action on Thursday, there’s little rest for Napoli and Roma after disappointing results.
Napoli’s excellent winning run was ended by the league’s most in-form side, Atalanta, thus curtailing any slender hopes they had of pushing for a top four berth. The onus will now be on them to consolidate a place in the top six and ensure there’s some European football at the San Paolo next term.
It was a similar story for Roma on Thursday, after they slipped to a disappointing loss to Udinese on home soil. After his red card in that encounter, Diego Perotti will be suspended for the fixture in Naples.
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