There’s been a lot of football over the last few days. Still, I bet you want a bit more, don’t you?
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday there are contests to savor. The FA Cup draw has churned out some eye-catching affairs, while there are big games at the top of the table in both Germany and Italy to keep you engrossed.
All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund
Friday, January 22, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The selections get underway with an intriguing match from Germany’s top flight as Borussia Monchengladbach host Borussia Dortmund.
For Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose, it’s likely to be an especially pertinent occasion, as he is widely anticipated to be the man who will take over at the Westfalenstadion on a permanent basis next season. That’s after Dortmund sacked Lucien Favre, who also managed Monchengladbach, earlier in the campaign.
In Monchengladbach, Dortmund will have a serious opponent to overcome. Although the hosts are renowned for their inconsistency, when they put things together they’re capable of playing some stellar attacking football; their memorable 3-2 win over Bayern Munich earlier this month is indicative of what they can do against sides who leave space to counter into.
A Champions League place appears to be the limit of Dortmund’s ambition this season, as they trail the leaders by 10 points. After a draw with Mainz and a midweek loss to Bayer Leverkusen, the onus is on them to get back to winning ways at a testing venue here.
Chorley Town vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Friday, January 22, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The fourth round of the FA Cup gets going on Friday with a quintessential tie, with Premier League outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers visiting Chorley Town, who are in the sixth of the Football League.
The National League North side beat Derby County to make it to this stage, continuing their dream run in the competition. While the Rams were nowhere near full strength having been struck by a Covid-19 outbreak, Chorley’s players will relish the opportunity to test themselves against some of the best players in European football.
Wolves do have an abundance of class within their ranks, but they’ve shown vulnerabilities as of late that will give Chorley hope. They’ve been beaten in their last two Premier League games and are struggling to find the balance that has made them such a fearsome prospect in the last two Premier League campaigns.
Manager Nuno Santo will want to rest some key men for this encounter, although on an uneven pitch and with wild weather forecast, you sense Wolves supporters won’t want the coach to take any chances on what could possibly be an awkward night.
Milan vs. Atalanta
Saturday, January 23, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The standout Serie A fixture of the weekend sees the surprise leaders AC Milan go up against the league’s great entertainers Atalanta.
While plenty have been waiting for Milan’s lead at the top to be gradually cut down, there don’t appear to be many signs of them wilting under the pressure of a title push. They lead their local rivals Inter by three points as we reach the halfway point of the 2020-21 term this weekend.
Milan do have the toughest test of all the teams vying for the Scudetto in Week 19 though, as Atalanta represent a nightmare opponent. Although they haven’t been quite as consistent this term, they retain an attacking ferocity and variety that few teams can match in Italian football. They’re on a nine-game run in Serie A without losing too.
One of the hallmarks of Milan’s surge to the top of the table has been their ability to find a way to win in challenging circumstances. If they grab three points here, it will feel like a big step towards a shock glory come the end of the season.
Schalke vs. Bayern Munich
Sunday, January 24, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+
It’s bottom hosting top in the Bundesliga on Sunday, with Schalke looking to spring one of the biggest shocks in many years of German top-flight football against Bayern Munich.
Schalke may have finally won a league match a couple of weeks ago, but new manager Christian Gross has had to cope with familiar issues in the previous two games, where they’ve slumped to defeat. It means they remain rooted to the bottom of the table and eight points behind Cologne, who occupy the relegation playoff spot.
Bayern have endured some ups and downs this season, but they remain at the summit and four points clear of RB Leipzig. There have been some displays of complacency, having been beaten by Monchengladbach when they led 2-0 and losing to Bundesliga 2 team Holsten Kiel in the DFB-Pokal.
Even so, it would be a huge surprise if Schalke managed to take anything from this clash and if Bayern can get on the scoresheet early it may be a long afternoon for the home team.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool
Sunday, January 24, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+
I know these two teams failed to deliver a watchable spectacle a week ago, but already the narratives around Manchester United and Liverpool have shifted so much in the space of a week.
Liverpool go into this FA Cup contest in dire need of a win. On Thursday, they were beaten at home in the Premier League for the first time since 2017 and the 1-0 surrender meant it’s now four games in a row in the League without scoring for the previously untouchable English champions.
After a 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, United added clout to their title credentials with a 2-1 win at Fulham. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad is a fantastic groove at the moment and as we approach the business end of the campaign they appear ready to fight for silverware on multiple fronts.
Both managers would typically make big changes to their starting lineups at this stage of the FA Cup, but the high-nature showdown of the fixture should see both call on strong sides. With a winner required on the day, it should also be a lot more open than last week’s stalemate.
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