As we rattle past the halfway stage in a number of European football’s elite leagues, results are starting to take on added significance in the fight for titles and Champions League qualification.
It makes this set of encounters all the more intriguing, with so many teams’ campaigns seeming to sit on a knife edge. We’ve got two eye-catching showdowns from the Premier League, another pair from Serie A and a meeting between two of Spain’s biggest names thrown in for good measure.
All kick offs are Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Leicester City vs. Liverpool
The remaining shreds of hope Liverpool had of defending their title were set alight by a rampant Manchester City last time out and the Reds face another daunting challenge at Leicester in the first match of the Premier League weekend.
Liverpool have a number of centre-back injuries to contend with at the moment, but there’s an undeniable lack of spark in their play too. Not only is there an uncertainty at the back, the formidable trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane appear jaded.
With the champions now surely looking at a top-four finish rather than top spot, Leicester will see Jurgen Klopp’s team as a direct rival. Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will feel as though his players can add to the poor form the visitors have been enduring too; a win for the Foxes would see them move six points clear of the Reds.
Last season, Liverpool produced arguably their best performance of the title-winning campaign when they hammered a then-second Leicester 4-0 at the King Power. Those levels feel a long way away for Klopp’s side at the moment, but victory here would be a big step forward after a challenging spell for the team.
Napoli vs. Juventus
Saturday, February 13, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Napoli and Juventus have both endured disappointing seasons by their own high recent standards, meaning both outfits will be desperate for three points here to ignite their campaigns.
Juventus will feel as though they could yet win the Serie A title. Despite being slow out of the blocks under new manager Andrea Pirlo, some important wins and missteps from the sides ahead of them in the division mean they are still only seven points off top with a game in hand. They also boast a collection of players who know what’s required to come through in pressure situations.
Aside from Juventus, Napoli boast one of the best squads in the Italian top flight, but as of yet manager Gennaro Gattuso has not been able to get a consistent tune out of his players. They go into this weekend in sixth and knowing Champions League qualification is a bare minimum come the end of the season.
Napoli’s fortunes could turn around quickly with a win on Saturday, as there’s only a five-point gap to their opponents. Juventus will be narrow favorites for the contest, although it’s difficult to know what to expect from either of these two sides at the moment.
Manchester City vs. Tottenham
With their 4-1 win at Anfield last weekend, Manchester City are in total control of the Premier League title race and will be favorites to take another step towards glory when Tottenham Hotspur come to town on Saturday evening.
City have been mechanical in their recent matches, as a 3-1 win over Swansea City in the FA Cup made it 15 consecutive wins in all competitions. With the defense secure and the attack starting to purr, there’s an ominous feeling about Pep Guardiola’s team and what they can accomplish this term.
Spurs don’t appear as sure of themselves, as was evidenced by their 5-4 loss to Everton on Wednesday in a thrilling FA Cup tie. While there was a lot more spark in attack from Jose Mourinho’s men, they were consistently undone by defensive sloppiness and individual errors. That’s something they will need to stamp out if they’re to get anything on Saturday.
When the two teams met earlier in the season, it was Spurs who prevailed in a professional 2-0 win against a toothless City. But plenty has shifted since then and you sense Mourinho would be delighted if his team could emerge from the Etihad with a point to show for their efforts.
Real Madrid vs. Valencia
Atletico Madrid’s draw with Celta Vigo on Monday meant the door has been left a little ajar for Real Madrid in the La Liga title race, but they will need to be practically perfect between now and the end of the campaign.
Los Blancos go into this game with Valencia having chopped the gap down to Atletico to five points, although the leaders do still have two games in hand. A testing trip to Granada for Diego Simeone’s side may give Real the opportunity to make further inroads on Sunday too.
Overall, it’s been a season of inconsistency for Zinedine Zidane’s team, with potentially promising runs punctured by shock losses. One of those was at home to Levante earlier this month, although they’ve responded well with back-to-back victories over Huesca and Getafe.
In the past, Valencia would’ve been a dangerous game for the home team, but this term they’ve been struggling near the relegation zone. Los Che are in 12th and only four points off the drop, but they did beat Madrid 4-0 in a remarkable game when the sides met at the Mestalla earlier in the season.
Inter Milan vs. Lazio
Sunday, February 14, 2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+
There are a number of teams who will still fancy their chances of getting in the mix for the Scudetto in Italy; fifth-place Lazio, who travel to second-place Inter, are one.
Having found the going tough earlier in the season, Lazio have emerged as a force again in recent weeks, striking the trademark balance that has made them a force to be reckoned with under Simone Inzaghi. With six top-flight wins registered in a row, they are a dangerous opponent for Inter.
The hosts will know how tricky this match promises to be and it’s the kind of contest they need to come through if they’re to end up top of the pile come May.
As much as Inter have shown some vulnerabilities at times this term, in Serie A they remain a tough nut to crack. The visitors will be looking to hand the Nerazzurri just their second loss in 18 league matches on Sunday evening.
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