Top 5 must-see soccer games: Jan. 29, 2021

It’s coming thick and fast at the moment isn’t it?

The majority of Europe’s top leagues are catering for midweek and weekend matches at the moment, meaning legs are tired and games are stretched. It’s made for a lot of turgid encounters, but some encapsulating ones too.

This weekend there are showdowns from Germany, Spain and Italy to get stuck into, as well as two from the Premier League.

All kick offs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!

 

Arsenal vs. Manchester United

Saturday, January 30, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Telemundo, fuboTV, Sling Blue and Hulu + Live TV (free trial)

An intriguing game is on the cards at the Emirates Stadium, with a rejuvenated Arsenal team up against a stuttering Manchester United.

The Red Devils appeared to have a routine task going back to the summit of the Premier League on Wednesday, but they were beaten at home by rock-bottom Sheffield United. It was a match reminiscent of earlier in the campaign for United and the defensive sloppiness in their play will worry manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

They will be facing a much-improved Arsenal too. After enduring a mid-season slump under Mikel Arteta the Gunners have picked up the pace again in recent weeks, winning five and drawing one of their last six Premier League matches. In Bukayo Saka, they have one of the division’s most exciting young talents too.

United have been frequently talked about as possible title contenders this term. If they are to last the pace, responses to setbacks like they suffered in midweek are imperative. Arsenal will sense blood and a possible push for European football in the second half of the season.

 

RB Leipzig vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, January 30, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Second hosts third in the Bundesliga on Saturday night, with Leipzig and Leverkusen in a fight to be the best of the rest this term.

Realistically, the title hope has gone for both of these teams, as losses last weekend coupled with a win for Bayern Munich left them seven points and 10 points off the pace respectively. Nevertheless, this should still be an entertaining occasion at Red Bull Arena.

Leipzig would have been especially frustrated with their 3-2 defeat to Mainz last weekend, as they had twice taken the lead in the game only to be pegged back. Julian Nagelsmann’s team has been so strong in defence in 2020-21 and he’ll be hoping the leaking of goals last week was just a temporary aberration.

Leverkusen are clinging on to third place having struggled in recent weeks. Their home loss to Wolfsburg made if four defeats in seven games and while they may have the attacking variety to cause problems for Leipzig on Saturday, keeping their hosts out may be too much of an ask on recent evidence.

 

Atalanta vs. Lazio

Sunday, January 31, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, fuboTV, Sling Orange and Hulu + Live TV (free trial)

The Serie A title race has a fascinating look to it as things stand. Both Atalanta and Lazio will feel capable of putting themselves in the mix over the coming weeks, as they meet for the second time in five days.

The two played out a thriller in the Coppa Italia quarter-final on Wednesday, with Atalanta edging the contest 3-2 despite seeing Jose Luis Palomino sent off in the second half.

At the moment, it’s Atalanta who appear the most likely of the two to tussle for the Scudetto. La Dea may have sold their long-time star forward Papu Gomez to Sevilla, but they showed they still have attacking potency with a masterful 3-0 win over AC Milan last weekend at the San Siro.

It was the kind of performance that will give them confidence of pushing into contention for top spot, although it’s important they back it up with a strong display against an improved Lazio team; they’ve won four in a row in the league. After all, the capital club can go above their hosts this weekend if they were to win in Bergamo.

 

West Ham United vs. Liverpool

Sunday, January 31, 11:30 a.m. ET, Peacock Premium

The Premier League’s other standout game comes from the London Stadium on Sunday, with the season’s surprise package West Ham welcoming champions Liverpool.

The Reds got back to winning ways on Thursday night, when they were able to dispatch of a below-par Tottenham team 3-1. Having struggled for fluency in the final third in 2021, manager Jurgen Klopp would’ve been pleased to see Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino back on the scoresheet again.

Based on recent evidence, West Ham are likely to provide stiffer opposition for Liverpool than their city rivals. David Moyes’ team have been in excellent form recently, with their 3-2 win over Crystal Palace in midweek temporarily taking them into the top four.

The Hammers’ brilliant recent form means they can take a free swing at Liverpool on Sunday, although you suspect they’ll look to be compact and counter. The worry for West Ham will be that Liverpool have been much improved in attack in their last two games and confidence will be up again after their fine win on Thursday.

 

Barcelona vs. Athletic Club

Sunday, January 31, 3 p.m. ET, beIN SPORTS, beIN SPORTS en Español, Fanatiz, fuboTV, Sling World Sports, Sling Latino and Vidgo (free trial)

Barcelona will be looking to keep their slim title hopes alive on Sunday, when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Nou Camp.

The two sides recently met in the final of the Spanish Super Cup and it was Athletic who had the edge in that fixture, with Inaki Williams’ stunning goal in extra time seeing the Basque team home 3-2.

Since that success, which also saw Athletic beat Real Madrid, Marcelino has steered them to three successive wins in all competitions, including an impressive 5-1 trouncing of the usually diligent Getafe. They will travel to Barcelona believing the firepower is there to cause some big issues.

The Blaugrana have found a winning formula in the league as of late, with five wins in succession helping them up to fifth spot. Even so, there’s a 10-point gap to leaders Atletico Madrid—who have a game in hand too—meaning that there is practically no room for slip-ups if Ronald Koeman’s team are to give themselves a fighting chance come the run-in.

 

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