With the festive period getting smaller in the wing mirror, football across Europe will settle back into a much more familiar pattern in the coming weeks.
In England, it’s the FA Cup and the standout tie of the round features in our selection. Elsewhere, there are huge games at the top of the Bundesliga and Serie A, as well as two eye-catching tussles from La Liga.
All kick-offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Sevilla vs. Real Sociedad
Saturday, January 9, 8 a.m. ET, beIN SPORTS XTRA and Fanatiz (free trial)
Despite some early-season hope of a title push, expectations have been recalibrated a little for Sevilla and Real Sociedad ahead of this showdown at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Of the two, it was Sociedad who appeared best equipped for that kind of challenge, although in recent weeks they’ve slipped out of form and down the table. There have been small signs of the San Sebastian side getting their act together again, with four points from their last two games, including a win over Athletic in the Basque derby.
Sevilla sit in sixth going into this showdown in Andalusia, but will feel confident about making their way back towards the top four. They trail their opponents by three points going into this weekend’s tussle, although have three games in hand on them.
The home side are proving tough to beat, although they aren’t necessarily free flowing in the attacking third at the moment. If Julen Lopetegui can find a way to bring some extra creativity into the setup, then Sevilla should be in the mix for a Champions League place for the duration of 2020/21.
Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Club
The standout fixture in Spain this weekend comes from the capital, where La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid will want to tighten their grip on top spot against Athletic.
It’s been a mixed week for Atletico, which started with a vital 2-1 win over Alaves in La Liga. A last-gasp goal from Luis Suarez proved to be the difference in a tight encounter and it ensured Atletico preserved a two-point lead to Real Madrid at the summit; Diego Simeone’s team have two games in hand too.
However, they were brought crashing down to earth in the Copa del Rey in midweek, as third-tier Cornella dumped them out of the competition in the second round. Even though the league appears to be the team’s priority this year, it’s hard to imagine Simeone being too happy with their efforts in the cup.
Athletic have had a turbulent campaign and after sacking Gaizka Garitano as manager, Marcelino took charge for the first time on Wednesday in a 3-2 defeat to Barcelona. With some more time to work with his team on the training pitch this week, the Basque giants should be able to make this an awkward night for their hosts.
RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Dortmund
Saturday, January 9, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Bayern Munich returned to the top of the Bundesliga last weekend; if either RB Leipzig or Borussia Dortmund have designs on keeping pace with the champions, this encounter on Saturday will be significant.
At the moment, it’s Leipzig who appear better equipped for the long haul. Julian Nagelsmann has made his team the outstanding defensive outfit in Germany this season and with that foundation they have a chance of getting something out of every game.
Where they may need to show more is in attack. While the plan is clearly to share the goals around following the summer sale of Timo Werner, it’ll be a concern to the manager that left-back Angelino and forward Yussuf Poulsen are the team’s joint-top scorers in the Bundesliga this term with four goals.
For Dortmund, it feels like now or never if they are going to hold title ambitions, with eight points and six points separating them from Bayern and Leipzig respectively. Their inconsistency may cease in the coming weeks though, as Erling Haaland returned to the team and Jadon Sancho got back on the scoresheet last weekend.
Roma vs. Inter Milan
Sunday, January 10, 6:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+
The most exciting title race in Europe this season may well come in Serie A, with Inter Milan and Roma fully in the mix ahead of their meeting at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend.
Inter will feel as though they missed a huge opportunity in midweek, as a 2-1 loss to Sampdoria ended their run of six consecutive league wins. It also meant that AC Milan remained top of the pile despite their defeat to defending champions Juventus, who suddenly appear to be right in the mix once again.
What those results have also done is open the door for Roma, who have quietly strung together an impressive run and moved up into third. Victory on Sunday would be enough for the Gialorossi to move level on points with Antonio Conte’s team.
With Inter and Atalanta the only two teams in Serie A to have scored more times than Roma this season, this morning matchup in the Eternal City should be the perfect way to start off your Sunday.
Marine vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, January 10, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+
As much as the match between eighth-tier Marine and Tottenham Hotspur represents perfectly what the FA Cup is about, it’s hard to not envisage what kind of occasion this would’ve been for the Merseyside club had supporters been allowed in.
Still, the community has rallied around the Crosby outfit, with former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher sponsoring the fixture, virtual tickets for the encounter sold and both the Reds and Everton offering their training facilities to the Northern Premier League team.
Marine beat Havant & Waterlooville to make it to this stage of the competition and while the challenge will be enormous for them, they’ll fancy their chances of causing some problems for what promises to be a much-changed Spurs team.
Jose Mourinho will surely make sweeping changes after his side’s League Cup semifinal win in midweek. However, it’s unlikely he’ll take anything lightly on Sunday, with the Tottenham manager always putting a huge emphasis on the domestic trophies.
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