Welcome to derby weekend. Two of the biggest derbies in the English Premier League and the Madrid derby will take place this Saturday. The weekend will start with Tottenham hosting Arsenal. The north London derby will be the first course of the weekend and looks to be a great match. Arsenal leads the rivalry with 66 wins. In the match earlier this year, the two teams drew 1-1 at the Emirates. This ended a streak of 3 wins at home for Arsenal. In the last 5 matches played at White Hart Lane, Tottenham have won 3, lost 1, and had one 3-3 draw. The loss, however, was last year when Rosicky scored in the second minute. This should be a hotly contested match and one that will have a huge impact on the league. Spurs enter the match having won 3 of their last 5 games, including the last two games. Arsenal comes into the game coming off 3 straight wins and 4 out of their last 5 games. This is the matchup of the number 5 and 6 teams in the table. Can either of these teams make the top 4?
The other big derby in England is the late game on Saturday. The longest running top-flight derby in England will take place at Goodison Park when Everton host Liverpool. The two teams from Liverpool collide when the “Friendly Derby” takes place for the 224th time. The two teams are located less than a mile apart from each other. Everton used to play at Anfield before moving across Goodison Park to their new stadium. This matchup usually has a lot of drama and a lot of goals. The first match this year ended 1-1 at Anfield with Phil Jagielka scoring in extra time to get Everton a point. In the last 5 games in this rivalry, there have been 4 draws and one Liverpool win. Liverpool has scored 10 goals in those 5 games while Everton has scored 6 goals. Will we see another great thriller?
The last big derby of the weekend will take place at the Calderon when Atletico Madrid hosts Real Madrid. This is one of the biggest rivalries in the world and has been escalating over the last couple years. Real Madrid comes into the game on a 4 game win streak and will get Cristiano Ronaldo back for the match. Atletico Madrid has won 3 of the last 5 games but has not won back to back over those games. However, Atletico has 3 of the 5 matches this year. They did lose the biggest match these two teams have played in recent history when the lost after extra time to Real in the Champions League final. Real Madrid will be without some key figures for the game, as James and Sergio Ramos are injured and Marcelo is banned. Can Atleti continue their great form against Real Madrid?
African Cup of Nations
The African Cup of Nations took a dark turn this week when the hosts went out of the tournament following their 3-0 loss to Ghana. The match needed to be suspended for 30 minutes when the crowd started hurling bottles onto the field. Riot police and a helicopter was used to help calm the crowd down. The trouble seemed to start around half time when the fans started to become restless. Some of the traveling Ghanaian fans had to go to the hospital after the game. Some sharp objects ended up on the pitch. In footballing news, Ghana will advance to the final this weekend to face Cote D’Ivoire. The Cote D’Ivoire beat DR Congo 3-1. The two continental powerhouses will play for what you can expect to be an amazing game with big names. I think this is going to be a fascinating game that will result in Cote D’Ivoire winning the African Cup of Nations.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the downfall of Borussia Dortmund. It seems to have taken a turn for the worse. Last weekend they drew at Bayer Leverkusen. While it was not the worst result, this week they lost 1-0 at home to 10-man Augsburg. Following the match, the players went over to their vocal fans to talk. Some of the players even climbed the fence to get closer to them. The team has suffered from players leaving and a lot of key injuries this season, but it is quite a fall for the team that was in the Champions League final just two years ago. In other Bundesliga games, Bayern Munich got their first point of the year when they drew 1-1 with Schalke. Fortunately for them, Wolfsburg also drew on the road at Eintracht Frankfurt so the lead at the top is still 8 points.
In Spain, Real Madrid played their game in hand against Sevilla and won 2-1. The game was basically over in the 36th minute when Jese scored the second goal of the game. James Rodriguez scored the opener in the 12th minute before needing to leave the game injured. Aspas added a late consolation goal. James will likely be out for a while.
In FA Cup replays, the big boys advanced but it was not easy sailing for them. Manchester United won 3-0 over Cambridge United, but the game could have easily gone the other way. Sunderland beat Fulham 3-1 and Preston North End beat Sheffield United. On Wednesday, Liverpool beat Bolton 2-1. Liverpool fell behind 1-0 after a dubious penalty in the 59th minute, but goals from Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho helped keep the dream birthday gift for Stevie G alive. The Coutinho goal was magic and is up on the twitter account @SoccerPond.
I have already talked about the big three rivalry matchups this weekend but there are still a lot of huge games.
In France, it might not be a derby, but Lyon host PSG in what will go a long way towards deciding the title. Lyon are currently 2 points clear of PSG. Lyon enter the game coming off a bit of a run of poor form. They have won only 3 of their last 5 games, but only 1 of their last 3 matches. PSG, on the other hand, have won 6 in a row. Marseille are also 2 points behind Lyon and will look to take top spot should the results fall their way. This will be a big weekend for Lyon and could put them well ahead of PSG and make it potentially a two horse race. It could also become extremely tight at the top and that will only cause more drama.
In Germany, Borussia Dortmund attempt to jump out of the bottom with a win at Freiburg. Despite all the poor results, they still only sit just 2 points from safety. Munich hope to win their first game of the new year as they travel to Stuttgart. Wolfsburg will be hoping that the slide continues for Munich, and they can close the gap even more when they host Hoffenheim. There is a good game tonight when Shalke host Monchengladbach. Both teams are in the fight for the final two spots in the table and a spot in the Champions League next year. Augsburg find themselves in the all important 4th place and will look to stay there with a win against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Juventus are unbeaten in their last 18 fixtures. They did draw their last match, but look to get back to winning ways when they host Milan. Milan enter the game having won just 2 of their last 5, losing the other 3 games. Roma enter the game having just lost 2-0 to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia. Before that match, they had drawn their last 5 games. They will need a big win at Cagliari to get back into the title race, as this one looks like it could be done well before the last day of the season. Juventus are currently 7 points ahead. Napoli sit in third place and will try to gain some more distance when they host Udinese. Lazio and Sampdoria are anticipating that Napoli slip up and they can close the gap with wins in their matches against Genoa and Sassuolo.
In Spain there are other games going on, but the big one is the Madrid Derby. In other games, Barcelona will look to continue their fantastic form when they travel to Bilbao. This has been a tricky game for Barcelona in the past, but they will have to work to keep pace with Madrid or close the game on them should they drop any points. Sevilla and Valencia are battling it out for fourth place and both teams are on the road. Sevilla travel to Getafe while Valencia take a trip to Barcelona to play Espanyol.
In England, Chelsea are looking to get 3 more points when they travel to Aston Villa. Last year, Aston Villa came up with a huge 1-0 win in this fixture, but now they are struggling after losing 3 of their last 5 games. Chelsea are coming into the game off a draw against City, but their form has not been great lately. Villa don’t score much, so it will be a tough one for them. Manchester City are eager to win their first game, as they have not won any of their last 4 games. Their opponent is the perfect opponent for them, as Hull City have lost seven of their last nine matches. On Sunday, West Ham will look to beat Manchester United at home for the first time in their last 5 attempts. QPR will play their first game without Harry Redknapp in charge when they host Southampton. QPR have really struggled this year and have not won at home for three games, and hope to get points as quickly as possible.
EPL Pick Em
The current standings are Buzz leading 161 to 150. He correctly called Everton to win last week 1-0 and that helped him on way to an 8-4 win for the weekend. Hoping for a better weekend this week here are the picks:
Me – Spurs 3-2, City 4-1, Swans 0-0, Palace 2-1, Chelsea 1-0, Saints 2-0, Pool 4-3, Burnley 3-0, Stoke 2-1, West Ham 2-1
Buzz – arsenal 2-1, Chelsea 2-0, Palace 1-1, City 3-1, saints 2-0, Swans 2-1, pool 2-2, Brom 2-1, Newcastle 2-2, United 1-0
Don’t forget to check out the twitter feed this weekend – @SoccerPond
Also we have been developing a new logo this past week. Big shout out to my sister for all of her help.