Serie A takes center stage this weekend, with four of the top five sides in the Italian top flight squaring off in what’s likely to be a bumper Sunday of soccer.
Aside from those clashes, set to make a big impact on which teams are to be considered genuine challengers for the Scudetto, there are a pair of interesting Premier League fixtures to take in, with two of the division’s established elite teams facing difficult away trips. The last selection is from the Bundesliga, with two UEFA Champions League hopefuls on the hunt for a win
All kickoffs are in Eastern time. Enjoy your weekend and enjoy the games!
Bournemouth vs. Manchester United
Saturday, December 12, 12:30PM, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra
Momentum is with Bournemouth this weekend as they head into what is one of biggest clashes in the club’s history, as they host Manchester United at the Vitality Stadium.
Eddie Howe’s side secured the best result in this team’s existence last time out, as they notched a deserved 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge against the champions. That day, the Cherries played with their typical panache, passing the ball around sharply, harrying their more illustrious opponents into mistakes and when their chance came in the second period, grasping it with both hands.
United will face an almighty challenge getting the better of this side and will be under big pressure to do so. After a 0-0 draw with West Ham United, that was followed with a loss to Wolfsburg and elimination from the Champions League on Tuesday evening, anything less than a win will not do here for Louis van Gaal, you’d imagine.
After all, the Premier League is likely to be the saving grace for this Red Devils team as they go in search of a major honor. They’re still only two points off the top heading into the weekend and can quickly banish the bad memories of the last few days should they secure what’d be a priceless three points on the south coast.
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Saturday, December 12, 12:30PM, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2GO
After their magnificent 3-1 win over Bayern Munich last weekend, the first team to topple the champions this season in the Bundesliga, Borussia Monchengladbach will be looking to continue their brilliant form when they head to Bayer Leverkusen this weekend.
The manner in which Monchengladbach approached their contest with Bayern last weekend was wonderful. Andre Schubert’s side did have to defend their 18-yard box for extended spells, but when they did get forward, they did so with gumption. Their clinical finishing saw them race into a 3-0 lead in the second period with Pep Guardiola’s men unable to recover.
Bayer need to get their campaign kickstarted and after they were eliminated from the Champions League in midweek following a 1-1 draw with Barcelona, perhaps a channeling of focus will aid in their quest to make strides up the division. At the moment, Roger Schmidt’s side are in a disappointing eighth place but only trail their upcoming opponents by five points.
It’s a game which should see plenty of goals too. In Javier Hernandez, Leverkusen are in possession of one of the most prolific goalscorers in European football at the moment, while Monchengladbach always carry an attacking threat. Whoever triumphs here will get a big boost in their attempts to secure a Champions League spot for next season.
Napoli vs. Roma
The first match in what should be a delightful Serie A double-header sees Napoli and Roma go head-to-head in a hugely important game.
Napoli’s impressive run of form was ended last time out as they struggled to a 3-2 defeat against Bologna, but they’re still within touching distance of league leaders Inter Milan, who are two points better off. While it was a blow for Stefano Pioli’s men to lose the masses of impetus they’d accrued in the last few weeks, this game is an opportunity to shock their season back into gear.
That’s because Roma, despite being well-placed in fourth spot themselves, have been a bit ropey as of late. In midweek they were booed by large portions of their fans following a 0-0 draw with BATE Borisov, despite qualifying for the knockout phases of the Champions League; they’ve failed to win any of their last three in Serie A too, seeing them lose touch with the table-toppers.
Nevertheless, Rudi Garcia’s side are dangerous and away from home, with some major counter-attacking talents within their ranks, have enough to trouble Napoli. They may be different in styles, but both sides love to attack their opponents and that’s likely to make for a very entertaining 90 minutes.
Juventus vs. Fiorentina
Juventus’ domestic revitalization will be given an emphatic test on Sunday afternoon, as the Bianconeri travel to high-flying Fiorentina.
Although Massimiliano Allegri’s men suffered a disappointing defeat in midweek against Sevilla, surrendering top spot in the group in the process, in Serie A things have been looking a lot better. Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro, two young players signed in the summer, are at full flight now and the Bianconeri have subsequently been a totally different proposition.
While Juve’s start was the surprise slump from the early weeks of the season, the renaissance which saw Fiorentina fire their way to the top of the league was the most unexpected upward trajectory. Now Paulo Sousa’s side can show they really are title contenders with a positive result on home soil, keeping Juve, just five points further back, at bay.
The Bianconeri are in the groove coming into this one on the back of five successive wins and will be expecting to add to that tally. But if La Viola can continue to play with the desirable balance they’ve showcased so far, they may well be the team to end this sequence of victories.
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Monday, December 14, 3:00PM, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra
Chelsea’s latest mini-resurgence will be given the most difficult litmus test possible on Monday evening, as they travel to the King Power Stadium to tackle surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City.
A 2-0 win over Porto in midweek ensured the Blues kept their hopes of silverware alive in the Champions League and most encouragingly of all, perhaps, they turned in their best performance of the campaign to date. Now, after a few false dawns in recent weeks, Jose Mourinho and his side must continue to build momentum.
It’ll be tough against Leicester, though. Claudio Ranieri’s side have surged to the summit of the league on the back of some sensational showings, with Jamie Vardy finally relinquishing some of the spotlight to his attacking partner in crime, Riyad Mahrez. The tricky Algerian netted a hat-trick at Swansea City last time out, proving the Foxes have multiple strings to their attacking bow.
You suspect Mourinho will seek to starve Leicester of the kind of space which they’ve relished so far this term and that could make for a cagey contest initially. But if the Foxes can come away from this contest with three points, perhaps they’ll begin to be considered a lot more seriously as potential title contenders.
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